I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It has been common ground for many years now that our present nationality law is out of date and needs replacing. After the passage of the Immigration Act 1971 the Conservative Government of the time began work on the matter. The Labour Government who succeeded us also accepted the case for change. They published a Green Paper on British nationality law in April 1977.
The present Government's White Paper, published last July, contained the outline of proposed legislaion. The basic principle on which both the previous and the present Government have proceeded is that—I quote from the Labour Government's Green Paper:
there must be a more meaningful citizenship for those who have close links with the United Kingdom.
It is, of course, easy to state the principle but, as Governments of both parties know very well, it is far more difficult to put it into practice.
Citizenship is inevitably a sensitive matter, about which people feel very strongly. They are naturally concerned about changes that they feel could affect them personally in important ways. It is understandable that in such a climate fears and anxieties, sometimes irrational, will be aroused. That is why it is very important that the House should adopt a constructive approach. For my part, I can assure the House that the Government will approach the Bill in that spirit. I very much hope that that will be reciprocated by right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. My duty in introducing the Bill is to deal with some of the anxieties that have been expressed. Where there is a case for making changes to the Bill in order to allay such fears, that can be considered as the legislation progresses. In many cases, however, as I hope to be able to show, the fears which have been expressed are wholly misplaced.
The main reason why it is necessary to replace the existing law is, quite simply, that the citizenship created by the British Nationality Act 1948 no longer gives any clear indication of who has the right to enter the United Kingdom. Citizenship and the right of abode, which ought to be related, have over the years parted company with each other. One can be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom. Conversely, one can have the right of abode here without being one of our citizens. The Labour Government, in their Green Paper, said almost exactly the same thing. Paragraph 10 of that document begins:
The most serious drawback to the status of citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies is that it does not provide a ready definition of who has the right of entry to the United Kingdom.
In consequence, holders of the present citizenship may, not unnaturally, be encouraged to believe, despite the immigration laws to the contrary, that they have a right of entry to the United Kingdom. We are doing nothing new in suggesting that our citizenship should give a better idea
of where people actually belong. The Green Paper once again put the position with admirable clarity. It said, in paragraph 15:
Arrangements must be made for those people who are now citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies… but who do not have such close ties with the United Kingdom as to become British citizens … To leave those of them who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with that status when many of them have little or no connection by birth, ancestry or residence with the United Kingdom or any colony would prolong a misleading and unsatisfactory feature of the present situation.
The Green Paper proposed that all citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies who did not become British citizens should become British overseas citizens. Some of the dependent territories represented that that proposal did not reflect accurately their relationship with the United Kingdom. We were impressed by those arguments, and we therefore propose that besides British citizenship there should be two other citizenships—citizenship of the British dependent territories, and British overseas citizenship. That does not, however, mean that for practical purposes the position of any of those who would have been British overseas citizens under the Green Paper proposals will be altered.
As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the Bill does not have anything to say—neither have previous Nationality Acts—about civic duties and rights. I shall come to the point later, but I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I turn now to the apprehensions that have been expressed about the Bill. As I have already said, it is important to approach these constructively but at the same time to be clear about those which rest on misunderstanding. For example, it is claimed that clause 1 is racially discriminatory. Frankly, I do not understand the basis for that claim. Clause 1 says that a child born here shall be a British citizen at birth only if one of his parents is a British citizen or is settled here. The provision takes account of the increasing numbers of children born to visitors, students and others who are here only temporarily.
It would also cover children of illegal entrants and overstayers. However, a person's racial origin is not relevant, and I fail to see any substance in the criticism of clause 1 on racial grounds. The clause introduces in that area much the same system as that which operates in most other countries in Europe. The Government's proposal is in fact more generous than theirs, since a child could be born a British citizen not only if one of his parents is such a citizen but also if one of his parents is settled.
This issue is crucial. For the first time in our law a person born here does not automatically obtain citizenship. In the past, many white immigrants came here and had children. Now many black people come here who may have children, even when they are under conditions of residence. That is what forms the racial content of the Bill.
I was answering a serious criticism of the Bill that I believe is wrong and wholly misplaced. It is said that clause 1 is racially discriminatory. I was seeking to explain that, whatever else it may be, it is certainly not that.
Another provision which has been described as racially discriminatory is clause 2. It says that a child born outside the United Kingdom after commencement shall be a British citizen if at the time of the birth his father or mother is a British citizen by virtue of birth in the United Kingdom. The present law enables citizens, by naturalisation or registration, to transmit citizenship overseas in the same way as citizens by birth. The Bill would change this. Instead, it provides, in effect, that British citizens by naturalisation or registration will not generally be able to transmit citizenship to children born abroad, they would be equated with citizens by descent in this respect.
This is an important matter, and I can see that there is room for argument—and I have heard it already—about the principle involved. The provision is not racially discriminatory. Anyone who is a British citizen by descent would also be unable to transmit, even though he might be of United Kingdom ancestry. Indeed, if resident in a Commonwealth country he would be unable to transmit at present. All that the Bill is doing is to put citizens, by registration or naturalisation, on the same footing. The exception that we shall make for those in Crown service or with business connections will apply to them.
The Government's position is reasonable. It has consistently been the aim of successive Governments, since well into the last century, to ensure that naturalisation was not being granted to people who had no real intention of living here. Some people would like to have our citizenship only or mainly because of the advantages that it confers if they go to live and work abroad. It seems right, therefore, that a person who acquires our citizenship by registration or naturalisation and then leaves and has children born to him, or her, overseas should not automatically be able to pass on that citizenship.
Of course, if the family later returns to the United Kingdom, that is another matter. Clause 3(5) provides for an entitlement to registration of the child as a citizen where he or she has lived here for three years with the parents and both of them consent.
The arrangements for transmission suggested in the Bill—
I am sorry, but I shall not give way. If I do not continue, other hon. Members will not get a chance to speak. I shall only occasionally give way, on major issues. Perhaps I should have said that when I come to a new point I shall give way if I judge it to be right. It is my right to decide, and I shall try to do so in the interests of the whole House, as many hon. Members wish to speak. Every intervention may mean that there will be fewer speeches.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunities to be heard. He does not seem to have difficulty in doing so.
The arrangements for transmission suggested in the Bill are a good point from which to discuss a further serious criticism, that the Bill discriminates against women. I cannot see how such a suggestion can seriously be made. The Bill preserves, for a transitional period of two years, the entitlement of non-citizen wives to be registered. Otherwise, the Bill provides for equality of treatment in almost every area. Most important is, however, the right of women as well as men to transmit British citizenship. This is to be found in clause 2 and is an important and significant new advance towards sex equality.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who has made this criticism, was, however, apparently referring to the proposals for acquisition of citizenship by spouses. Although he calls these sexually discriminatory, he apparently accepts that husbands and wives are treated equally. They are. I find it impossible to comprehend how it can be said that a provision which treats husbands and wives alike is discriminatory against women.
Since acquisition of citizenship is dependent upon a residence qualification, and since the right hon. Gentleman has gone out of his way to stop women entering this country and therefore beginning their residence qualification, it is by definition discriminatory against them.
I do not accept that I have done that. I remain convinced that a provision which treats husbands and wives equally cannot be described as being sexually discriminatory.
The right hon. Gentleman may, of course, be suggesting that women should continue to have an automatic right to citizenship on marriage. But the Bill's proposals are based on one of the options set out in his party's Green Paper. The right hon. Gentleman criticised us for invariably choosing the hardest option in that paper, so I should make it plain that we did not do that on this topic. Another option canvassed by the Green Paper was that husbands and wives should be treated no differently from other candidates for citizenship. We did not choose that alternative.
The Bill has also been criticised because of its silence on civil rights. Paradoxically, the same people, including the British Council of Churches, also criticise it on the ground of the fear that people settled here might lose their civic rights. No provision in the Bill deprives people in this country of any of their civil rights, nor is there any intention of using the Bill in that way. Clause 47(1), ensures, in effect, that existing references in these areas to the meaning of "British subject" will cover the same people as at present. I do not see what more we could have done.
I should have thought that the suggestion that the Bill should also cover civic rights and obligations was self-evidently an unrealistic aim. The rights and obligations which people seem to have in mind—not that they are ever accurately defined—are covered already by separate legislation. This is often of very great importance and complexity in its own right. It is, in my opinion, wholly unfair to criticise the Government for doing what has always been done, which is to treat nationality as a self-contained area calling for its own separate legislation. The Labour Government's Green Paper dealt very briefly with civic rights. It said:
Such privileges do not stem directly from the law on nationality and so are not dealt with in this document
If the Opposition are going to depart from that, let them give their reasons, but that is what they said when in office.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene at this stage. He knows from our relationship over the years that I am the last to wish to misrepresent the Government's position.
Why are the British Council of Churches and the Commission for Racial Equality, which was set up under the 1976 Act, so widely critical? The right hon. Gentleman supported the setting up of the commission under that Act and now takes no notice of it.
To say that I take no notice of it is incorrect. To say that I have to accept everything it says because I supported its establishment is a principle that would place all right hon. and hon. Members in a difficult position. All of us have from time to time supported the setting up of various bodies which we have later seen fit to criticise on a variety of occasions.
Of course, I pay attention to what those two organisations have said, but if I am to be criticised on the reasons for leaving civic rights out of the Bill I am entitled to pray in aid what has been done in the past and what the Labour Government said in their Green Paper.
I shall now give way to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall).
The Home Secretary is making great play of the fact that the Bill contains nothing about civic rights, but it contains a reference to the basic civic right, which is the right of abode. On two of the categories of citizenship to which the Bill refers it confers the right of abode. However, it confers no right of abode in any country on the third category—British overseas citizenship. That is the basic discrimination in the Bill, irrespective of what the Home Secretary said about clauses 1, 2 and 3.
The hon. Gentleman has made a very broad point. I have been sticking to various criticisms of clauses 1 and 2 and of the lack of any reference to civic rights in this country. I think that I am entitled to show, as I have, the reasons for that. I am equally entitled to show that I find some of those criticisms wholly misleading and not based on a full reading of the Bill and the various positions surrounding it.
I want to raise this point before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of civic rights. He referred to clause 47(1), which mentions British subjects and Commonwealth citizens. Some of us are concerned about the civic rights of those who are neither—that is, those who are citizens of the Irish Republic. The problem that we still face is that they are apparently to remain in the position where, because they have voting rights, they are liable to be summoned to jury service although they specifically deny allegiance to the Crown. When we are dealing, under clause 47(1), with the civic rights of British subjects and Commonwealth citizens, surely we cannot ignore the position of those who fall into neither category.
I have made it clear before, as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that we do not believe that the voting position and the civic rights of the Irish come within the provisions of the Bill, and to that I hold.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 deals with the acquisition of citizenship by birth after commencement. At present anyone born here becomes one of our citizens unless, broadly speaking, his father is a diplomat. However, it is increasingly the case that children are born while their parents are here temporarily. The present arrangements lead to significant numbers of people acquiring the right of abode here although they have no real ties with this country. Clause 1(1) accordingly provides for a child to be a British citizen at birth only if one of his parents is a British citizen or is settled here. Of course, as the White Paper acknowledges, some practical problems are inherent in this proposal, but we believe that they can be overcome.
I have already referred to clause 2. It provides generally for children born abroad in the first generation to become citizens by descent if one of their parents is a citizen by birth. Citizenship will not be transmissible as of right beyond the first generation except in carefully prescribed circumstances. A child will be a British citizen if one of the parents is a British citizen, although not a citizen by birth, and is in Crown service or service which is designated as being closely associated with the activities overseas of Her Majesty's Government. An example would be the British Council.
Citizenship can also be transmitted for more than one generation by registration overseas within a year of birth where the mother or father is a citizen and is engaged overseas in employment which has a close connection with the United Kingdom This includes United Kingdom firms and companies with overseas branches and international organisations of which the United Kingdom is a member. This is set out in subsections (2) to (4) and (7) of clause 3.
These provisions recognise that people can remain closely attached to the United Kingdom while spending long periods of their working lives abroad. I am sure that the House will welcome them. They will replace the present arrangements for consular registration and, unlike these arrangements, will apply to births in Commonwealth as well as foreign countries.
I am most grateful. May I ask a question which involves a moment of family history? [Hon. Members: "Oh".] This is most important. My mother and father were both born in Britain. I was born in Tanzania. I, married in Britain and have a lovely daughter, who has a full entitlement to citizenship. My brother was born in Edinburgh. He may marry a German. Their children may have full entitlement to citizenship. My sister was born in Blantyre, in Nyasaland. She married a South African. Some of the children were born in South Africa. Do they have entitlement under the Bill to come and live in Britain? I do not think so. Will the right hon. Gentleman give me an assurance that, under clause 2 (3), the children of missionaries have full entitlement to settle in Britain if they wish to do so, and have equal rights with Crown citizens and business occupations abroad?
I think that the sensible answer that I must give the hon. Gentleman is that it would be a very unwise Minister who gave an off-the-cuff answer to detailed provisions affecting particular cases. Of course, either my hon. Friend the Minister of State or I will give the hon. Gentleman a full answer in writing, but for me to give an answer on the Floor of the House in the middle of a general speech would be quite wrong, especially if it were misleading.
Why should such a trade, which is not in the service of the Crown, except another crown, be dismissed as having equal rights to Crown servants, business men and chaps in international organisations? Why should the people serving as servants of God not have the assurance that I am asking of the right hon. Gentleman.
I make the same answer. The hon. Gentleman can make his speech. I have made up my mind finally that, except in the case of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench or in the case of major problems raised on my side, I will not give way again. I do not think it makes sense to do so. Obviously I have to preserve the position of some senior figures in my party and the senior figures on the Opposition Front Bench, but I am not prepared to go further than that.
Yes, that is exactly what it is, and that is what it is meant to be.
Clause 3(1) continues the existing discretion conferred on me by section 7 of the 1948 Act to register any minor child.
Clause 4 deals with the acquisition of citizenship by naturalisation. Subsection (2) makes special arrangements, to which I have already referred, for the acquisition of citizenship by the husband or wife of an existing citizen. The arrangements are set out in detail in schedule 1. The main point to note is that a husband or wife of a British citizen can apply for naturalisation only after three years' residence whereas for other persons the requirement will be five years' residence.
The present arrangements are that a wife, but not a husband, has an entitlement to acquire citizenship immediately on marriage. That would cease. There would, however, be a transitional period, during which wives would be able to apply for citizenship on the same basis as now. They would be entitled to citizenship if they were still married to the man concerned and if he had not in the meantime renounced citizenship.
Schedule 1 also sets out the basic preliminary requirements for naturalisation. These are five years' presence in this country; good character; a knowledge of the language; and an intention to live here or be employed in Crown service or some other United Kingdom-based employment. The schedule sets out guidelines as to the precise amount of time a would-be applicant for naturalisation must spend actually in the country. This will enable people to know where they stand.
I recognise, of course, that there are those who argue that the criteria for naturalisation should be more specific—"objective" is the term often used—and that there should be a right of appeal against refusal. The Green Paper produced by the Labour Government and the White Paper, however, contained powerful arguments against introducing appeal rights in this area. Paragraph 60 of the Green Paper said that,
the judgments which have to be made in this area are essentially subjective, and matters of this kind are not easily justiciable … applicants who were refused on security or similar grounds could not in any case be given a right of appeal because of the difficulty of disclosing in public the information that had led to the refusal".
I am bound to say that the arguments against an appeal system remain compelling. Such a system would certainly be expensive in terms of public service manpower and there would be long delays if it were grafted on to the existing immigration appeals machinery or if the burden were placed on our already overloaded High Court. Furthermore, because it would mean a system of objective tests, it is difficult to see how the existing criteria for citizenship could continue to operate.
Clauses 5 and 6 would preserve for varying transitional periods the right to register at present possessed by certain categories. Clause 7 gives an entitlement to register to those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who are at present initially subject to immigration control but become patrial after five years' residence here. Clause 8 confers a right to register on persons who are currently entitled to resume our citizenship, having previously renounced it.
Clause 9 ensures that, with one exception, anyone who is at present a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode becomes a British citizen at commencement. Subsection (2) sets out the exception to which I have referred. It was mentioned in paragraph 19 of the White Paper. Basically the subsection corrects an anomaly. At present, if a woman who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies has a child overseas, and that child is stateless, it has an entitlement to registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. A side-effect of acquisition of citizenship in that way is to give the child the right of abode in the United Kingdom even if the mother does not have it. That is clearly illogical. So the Bill provides that such children will acquire the same status as their mothers, whether that be British citizenship or citizenship of the British dependent territories or British overseas citizenship.
I come to part II of the Bill. There is no need for me to go into its clauses in detail, since they are broadly similar to the provisions for British citizenship. There are, however, one or two points of principle which I should make.
The first is that the Bill provides for a composite citizenship covering all the dependent territories. I am sure that this is right. We are aware of the strength of feeling in Hong Kong on the need to maintain the ties between that territory and the United Kingdom. I should like to reaffirm that the proposed legislation is in no way intended to weaken those links to which we attach great importance. I do, however understand the feelings of some of the dependencies which feel that their particular situation is special. We have taken with great seriousness the approaches which have been made to us by Gibraltar. It is obviously important that the Gibraltar House of Assembly has unanimously passed a motion asking us to reconsider the position so as to categorise them as British citizens. The position of the Falkland Islands also commands a great deal of sympathy.
Nevertheless, it remains right that the citizenship of our dependent territories should apply in a uniform way throughout those territories. Unimaginable confusion would result if this were not so. What I want to stress, however, is that the Bill in no way alters the position as regards the United Kingdom's moral and constitutional responsibilities for the territories in question. Nor does it in any way affect the special position of Gibraltar as part of the European Community.
On the Falkland Islands, I want to say this. In December 1979, following the publication of the White Paper on the revision of the immigration rules, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent a message to the people of the Falkland Islands assuring them that in the event of an emergency the problems of any islander who did not possess the right of abode in the United Kingdom and who was in trouble at that time would be most carefully and sympathetically considered. In the light of the concern recently expressed on behalf of the islanders, I wish to reaffirm that pledge and assure the islanders that in such circumstances they can depend upon the most sympathetic consideration of their position.
Apart from those who want their special relationship with the United Kingdom emphasised in the Bill the provisions of the Bill for dependent territories are, I understand, broadly acceptable to those territories. The differing circumstances of the individual territories make it impractical to provide through the Bill for citizenship of the British dependent territories to carry with it the right of abode in those territories generally. The immigration ordinances of the individual territories are a matter for the individual territories.
I understand, that what will happen is that the territories will review their immigration ordinances in the light of the Bill with a view, broadly speaking, to enabling those citizens of the British dependent territories who derive their citizenship from a connection with a particular territory to reside there. Although there may be difficulties in a small number of cases it is, I think, generally accepted by the dependencies that this should be done as far as is possible.
I am sure that it is important, but it can be dealt with at the end of the debate.
Part III of the Bill deals with British overseas citizenship. This is a residual category. Many of its holders indeed already possess another citizenship. The Bill does not alter their position in any material respect. They are at present subject to United Kingdom immigration controls and that will remain the position. Given the numbers involved, it could hardly be otherwise. I want to stress, however, the continuance of the special arrangements for certain United Kingdom passport holders who are mainly in or originate from East Africa. The Government intend to continue the special voucher scheme for them.
Clause 27 would ensure the continuation of the current provisions regarding British subjects without citizenship by virtue of sections 13 and 16 of the 1948 Act. Those are the people who in 1948 were regarded as potential citizens of other Commonwealth countries. Those countries, however, did not in the event cover them in their citizenship laws. The category is diminishing since it relates to people born before 1949. The clause also covers former foreign women registered as British subjects under the British Nationality Act 1965.
Clause 28 covers another category of persons born before 1949. These are Irish citizens who were at that time also British subjects. They have been eligible to claim to remain British subjects by means of a written notice to the Home Secretary. As the White Paper indicated, the Bill would perpetuate this arrangement. The Government consider that it is justified by the long historical connection between the United Kingdom and what is now the Republic of Ireland. There are often, as the White Paper pointed out, close relationships between families resident in both countries.
Clause 33 introduces a separate schedule—schedule 2—which contains provisions designed to ensure our continued compliance with the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness.
Clause 34 provides who shall have the status of Commonwealth citizen. Apart from the citizens of other Commonwealth countries, listed in schedule 3, British citizens, citizens of the British dependent territories, British overseas citizens and British subjects are to have that status. But the converse—that Commonwelath citizens should all be British subjects—would no longer apply.
Clause 35 continues the existing provisions for British protected persons.
Clause 36 and schedule 4 set out the related amendments to the Immigration Act that are required. I have already touched on the need for these. Now that British citizenship, unlike the existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, is to carry with it the right of abode, the current provisions on right of abode need to be replaced. The most important feature is the replacement of section 2 of the 1971 Act by the new statement of the right of abode contained in Clause 36(2).
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend. I am grateful for his characteristic courtesy. A point of major importance arises in relation to clauses 46 and 47. Could my right hon. Friend add to his very clear exposition of the Bill by giving the House the benefit of some guidance as to the effect of the new code of citizenship on the right of freedom of movement of workers and the right of establishment within the European Economic Community?
Mr right hon. Friend will know that these matters are referred to in the Treaty of Rome, where the test is nationality, which is not defined in the Treaty. I imagine that there will be a significant change in the arrangements under the new law. But it is not referred to in the Bill. It is referred to in the White Paper, but only in the glossary, which of course has no legal effect. There is no reference in the interpretation clause—clause 46—or in clause 47.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend would address himself to this matter, or, if it is not convenient at this moment, perhaps the Minister of State would take the point on board and give us the benefit of his guidance as we approach the late hours of the night.
These matters are still under discussion with the European Community. I would therefore ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) to allow my hon. Friend to give a detailed reply on that matter—[Interruption.] I should have thought that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) would agree that, as these matters are under discussion, it is only sensible to have a detailed reply in the winding-up speech on a matter of considerable complexity, which I am sure that he understands but on which it is important to get a clear answer. I should hope that that might, for once, take the smile off his face.
I need not, I think, go into the remaining clauses. I hope that my outline of the Bill's main provisions will have assisted the House. In particular, I hope that it will have demonstrated that, understandable though they are, there are no real grounds for some of the fears which have been expressed. I appeal to all those, including representatives of the churches who have expressed such fears, to consider further what I have said. I am most concerned to remove the basis for the existing misunderstandings and am anxious that people should not be alarmed unnecessarily. I emphasise yet again that the Bill will not adversely affect the position under the immigration law of anyone who is lawfully settled in the United Kingdom. We promised this and we have kept that promise. The Bill provides the comprehensive and logical overhaul of our citizenship legislation that has so long been required and which it has long been the absolute duty of the Government of the United Kingdom to introduce.
The Opposition propose to oppose the Bill at all stages. We shall vote against the Second Reading tonight. We shall attempt to amend the Bill in Committee. When whatever remains of it comes back to the House as a result of the Government Whips and the Government's majority on Third Reading, we shall vote against what has been pushed through in the Standing Committee.
The Bill should not go upstairs at all. It should not be considered in a Standing Committee. It should be considered by a Committee of the whole House, because it concerns some, though not all, of the fundamental rights of British citizens. Long-established rights are being diminished in some cases, and in other cases removed. If the Conservative Party, which talks so often and so glibly about constitutional propriety, had any respect for the House, it would have ensured that the Committee stage was dealt with on the Floor of the House, giving all hon. Members equal opportunity to make individual points.
It is clear why the Government flinch from proper discussion. It is clear why they refused to allow the new Committee procedure to be used. That procedure would have enabled experts and interested parties to offer their opinions on the Bill. Fortunately, the Government's omissions have been remedied, to a degree, by the Opposition taking evidence from interested and concerned parties. The evidence that we obtained made two points very clear.
First, it was clear that in the recent past the Government have had scant negotiation and consultation with the minority communities in the country. Secondly, had the Government had the nerve to operate the new Committee procedure, they would have been faced with four solid sessions of complaint after complaint about the principles and content of the Bill. As the Home Secretary admitted, rather shamefacedly, at the end of his speech, the combined opinion of the Church of England and the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales would have been explained in detail—why they regard the Bill as wrong in principle and wrong in practice. I quote just one passage from their statement this week. The bishops say:
Any new nationality law should state as a matter of principle that our national identity is multi-racial, thereby avoiding the potential racial conception of national identity.
The bishops conclude that the Bill fails in that particular and therefore goes on to devise policies which are in their nature and in their content racial. I must tell the Home Secretary that that is the Opposition's view, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman did the same."] Perhaps hon. Members will bear with me until I turn to the Green Paper. If they have read the Green Paper and the White Paper, they will be able to follow me when I take the House through the substantial differences in principle between the two documents.
It is our view and the view of most outside commentators that this is not a nationality Bill at all, but an immigration control Bill. If the Home Secretary disagrees with that, although I note that some of his hon. Friends on the Conservative Back Benches are agreeing and rejoicing in the fact—
—he has only to recall what was said by the Leader of the House as recently as last Thursday, when he made the case for the Committee stage not being taken on the Floor of the House. The Leader of the House said:
there is the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. That was the first occasion upon which we legislated to introduce immigration controls. That measure was taken on the Floor of the House. However, all subsequent Immigration Acts, of which the Bill is certainly of the same type, have been taken in Standing Committee, including the 1971 Act".—[Official Report, 22 January 1981; Vol. 997, c. 422.]
I am glad that the Leader of the House, if not the Home Secretary knows what the Bill is about. It is about controlling Commonwealth immigration.
I do not suggest for one moment that a new nationality Act is not needed. The world has changed considerably since 1948, not least because of the wholly welcome process of colonies becoming independent nations. That process, as the Labour Government's Green Paper said, has left the law of nationality complicated and obscure. But what we need, as we redefine nationality, is a positive statement of nationality based upon objectively defined principles, clean of all racial considerations. From that statement of nationality, a non-discriminatory immigration policy could then flow.
Further to the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that the Bill is a measure for immigration control, will he tell us how many people, and from where, he calculates will be excluded from this country if the Bill is passed?
Of course, if the hon. Gentleman, predictable as always, wants to play the immigration numbers game, numbers can be provided. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to make that sort of point. Let me assure him that, as I go through the speech that I propose to make, I shall say who I believe will be excluded, who will not be excluded and the additional categories which, under the proposals which I have outlined, would be allowed in.
No. I am not giving way.
We need a positive statement of nationality from which, then, a statement of immigration could flow without any discrimination between the races or between the sexes. As I propose to demonstrate, this Bill discriminates in both respects.
I say again that we have before us an immigration control Bill dressed up to look like a nationality Bill. Anyone who reads the White Paper will see that, time after time, it talks about numbers, rates of entry and entitlement to settle here.
Since the Nationality Bill is based on the Government's prejudices concerning entry and settlement, inevitably the Bill in itself discriminates. It discriminates against the black population in the Commonwealth and it discriminates against the black population already in the United Kingdom. [AN HON. MEMBER: "How?"] Believe me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I propose in a moment to give a very simple and obvious example which even Government supporters will understand.
The Home Secretary asked us continually to accept his good faith and his good intentions. He said that he did not understand these criticisms. I believe that, and I believe that it is one of the difficulties that we face. But, when the right hon. Gentleman asks us to accept his good faith and his good intentions, let me tell him at once that I do. I have no idea what goes on in the right hon. Gentleman's head or in his heart. I am not entitled to make judgments about that, and I am not terribly interested to know. However, I can make judgments about what comes out of his Bill, and the outcome of his policies is that the Bill discriminates in the particulars that I have described.
In fact, the Bill is racist. I make that grave charge, and I give an example at once.
In my constituency, there are very many examples of two families living in neighbouring, adjacent, related houses. They live side by side in the same row of houses. Both families are made up of British citizens, both of them theoretically enjoying equal rights under the law. After the Bill has been passed, they will not find that they have identical rights. If the mother of one of those families gives birth to a child when she happens to be on holiday in Spain, that child automatically will be British. A child born to the other family if the mother happens to be with her parents in Islamabad will not automatically be British. Here are two families living side by side, theoretically equal under the law, and the rights of one of them will be changed as a result of this Bill. I do not know how Government supporters who are still mumbling that there is no racial discriminatory element in the Bill can justify their point. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is racist about it?"] What is racist is that the difference between the two categories always works out, or almost invariably works out—or 90 per cent. of the time works out—in a way which disadvantages the black community and gives corresponding advantage to the white. That is why I again describe the Bill, irrespective of the Home Secretary's good intentions, as racist in outcome. That is what the Opposition resent, and that is what we shall fight.
The truth is that, on the example that I have just given, a child born to one family will be British under all circumstances. A child born to the other will be British only by courtesy of the Home Secretary.
As that demonstrates, not only does the Bill discriminate against potential entrants into the country. It discriminates against British citizens already living here believing that they enjoy equality. It is no good the Home Secretary or anyone else preaching little homilies about the equal treatment of the ethnic minorities if this Government then pass legislation which, as its outcome, puts the ethnic minorities at a disadvantage. That is what the example that I have just described does, and I propose to give other examples.
It has been argued, and the Home Secretary has argued again today, that the Government have done no more than continue a policy which was begun by my right hon. and hon. Friends in 1977. Initially, I resented that suggestion, and then I saw that extraordinary apologia given at dictation speed to The Times and published last Thursday. I decided that, if the Government had to have recourse to that sort of propaganda, the Opposition should be more sorrowful and the Government should be more pitied than blamed for the other excesses of explanation and apology in which they had indulged over the past couple of months.
The facts are clear. The introduction to the Green Paper was precise and specific in saying that that was, as Green Papers are, a discussion document canvassing a wide variety of possibilities. The then Home Secretary was equally clear in introducing it. He said:
I emphasise that the document is a set of ideas for discussion. It is not a set of proposals for legislation…The purpose of this document is to invite views."—[Official Report, 27 April 1977; Vol. 930, c. 1227–8.]
We know the Government's views. At best—I repeat—they have chosen the hardest options canvassed in the Green Paper, with one exception. But, much worse than that, what absolves the Opposition of any parentage of this Bill is that in one particular the Government propose to limit the rights of children born here in a way
which the Green Paper specifically rejected, and in another particular the Government propose to remove the rights of citizens by descent in a way which was neither privately contemplated nor publicly considered by the previous Government. Each of those two proposals, in no way associated with the previous Administration, is an issue of fundamental principle. Each of them denies to citizens the rights which the Opposition believe to be inalienable. Each, in our view, in itself would justify our voting against the Bill. In a moment, I shall take the two examples in turn.
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's attack on this Bill upon the ground that it is really an immigration Bill, will he address himself to paragraph 29 of the Green Paper, which reads:
Some people who now have the right of entry to this country under the Immigration Act 1971 would not become British Citizens if the law were amended as suggested above.
Does not that show, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, an illiberal approach in the Green Paper by the Opposition?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman heard me say that the Green Paper canvassed a wide variety of options. That is the nature of Green Papres. All right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are prepared to shelter behind a discussion document had better decide, even if what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said is correct—and I believe his criticism to be fundamentally wrong—whether in these two particulars, where the Government are doing precisely what the previous Government would not have done, they are prepared to support these two items of discriminatory policy which I now outline.
The first concerns clause 1:
A person born in the United Kingdom after commencement shall be a British citizen if at the time of the birth his father or mother is…a British citizen or…settled in the United Kingdom.
The word "settled" is defined in clause 43 (3) and (4). It does not include persons living here with restrictions on their stay. It does not include people whom the courts decide are not ordinarily resident here. That means that a substantial number of children who in the future will be born in the United Kingdom will, for the first time in our history, be denied the absolute and automatic right to British citizenship. The Green Paper is specific in its support of automatic citizenship for every child born here. In taking quite the opposite view to that taken by the Labour Government three years ago, the present Government advance two arguments.
The first is the high argument. There is the assertion in paragraph 42 of the White Paper that the opportunity of every child born here to be British might become "something of a handicap," a handicap to the child because the child might want to give up being British but forget to do so in time. Could there be a more pathetic argument in favour of the clause than what is actually said in the White Paper? I urge the Home Secretary to recognise this. He does not have to ask the Minister of State because it is in the White Paper. We are told that there might be some hardship if children forget to give up their British citizenship in time.
The low argument is described by the Government in paragraph 43 of their White Paper as the thing which causes their "main uneasiness"—that
the additional British citizens so created … would form a pool of considerable size.
That has nothing to do with the principles of nationality. It has simply to do with numbers, with the size of the pool. We are even back to the same pathetic, watery metaphors, to "swamping", in the Prime Minister's phrase—talk about pools, about numbers, about size, about immigration control, and nothing to do with principle.
I suspect that by last week the Home Office was beginning to get embarrassed about the "size of the pool," argument and therefore the article in The Times to which I referred, plainly dictated by some luckless PRO at shorthand speed, actually said that the "change", the change to deny some children British citizenship even though they were born here,
is made because of the large number of people travelling, with the greater likelihood of children being born here in transit …
The idea seems to be that the airlines, which do not allow travel by pregnant women, might allow themselves to be talked into bringing hundreds, a large pool, of potential mothers who would then leave London airport to give birth in Marks and Spencers or the National Gallery during their summer holidays here. Frankly, that is ridiculous. As the Home Secretary knows, the answer is that this was meant to make a reduction in numbers, it was a way of keeping some of them out, and it had nothing to do with principle.
The second example relates to clause 2, and again it is an example of something which was totally rejected by the Labour Government. The clause provides:
A person born outside the United Kingdom after commencement shall be a British citizen if at the time of his birth his father or mother … is a British citizen by virtue of birth in the United Kingdom.
Citizens by registration—citizens equally British, I should have thought, because "British" should mean one thing and one thing alone—will not necessarily find that their children born when they have gone home or on holiday will have British citizenship.
Yes, gone home. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman what I mean by home. I have said, and I repeat, that while at least one person on the Opposition Benches believes that more ought to go home, the truth is that they are home already. Most of my black constituents are home already, home in Sparkbrook. But there is one habit which persists among the Asians in my constituency, namely a desire—they would say a need—to be with their mothers specifically when their children are born. Most of them would like their mothers to come here for the birth of their children, but most of their mothers are being kept out by the Minister of State. The alternative is to go to their family home and have their babies where their mothers are.
That is what I meant and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) for giving me the opportunity to draw attention to one of the many shortcomings of the Minister of State.
I return to the discrimination which is made, that one family's child born abroad is British by nature and the child of another family born abroad is British by courtesy of the Home Secretary. This can only have a deeply adverse effect on race relations.
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that the reason why I did not think it right to give way to him earlier was that I was sure that whatever he had to say would exacerbate race relations in this country.
I have spent the past 15 years telling my black constituents that they were equal before the law. I must now tell them that, if the Bill is passed, the law will discriminate against them.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not do so, and I think that it is significant only in the sense that the Home Secretary does not understand the effect which the Bill will have on race relations. I do not for a moment doubt the Home Secretary's wish to improve race relations in this country. What I fear is that, despite his wish, the Bill will produce a result quite the opposite of that which is his general, proper and honourable intention.
I imagine that the Home Secretary will say that some of the problems which I have described are mitigated by the fact that in both cases—the child born abroad to British citizens by registration and the child born in England to people who have been here for some time but are not defined in the categories that give it automatic citizenship—can be given British citizenship on the approval and with the agreement of the Home Secretary. I must say that the willingness to provide these conditional arrangements in no way improves the principles laid down by the Bill.
It is impossible to rely on ministerial good will on these occasions. It is quite wrong that a family's future or the state of an individual should be decided by a civil servant's recommendation and the personal subjective judgment on the matter of the Home Secretary of the Minister of State.
No, I must get on. I have given way three times. [HON. MEMBERS: "To your own supporters."] I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) does not regard himself as a Labour Party supporter.
I wish now to describe what I believe a proper Nationality Bill would include. We believe that such a Bill would contain a proper specification and precise definition of what nationality means. It would enshrine those conditions in law, and it would make those conditions subject to proper appeal by people who believed that they were entitled to nationality but had not been granted it by ministerial decision.
The Bill before us makes no provision for any appeal concerning the right to nationality. In discussing its failure to do so, the White Paper again indulges in what I regard as a particularly squalid piece of double-talk. I fear that the Home Secretary fell for it this afternoon, and he ought to criticise whoever wrote that part of his speech for allowing him to make a statement which, on reflection, he will feel to have been less than fair.
Referring back to the Green Paper, the Government say in their White Paper that they share
the doubts expressed in the Green Paper on whether it would be apt to have an appeals system if good character is to be assessed subjectively…
That is true. The Green Paper does say that. But we do not want a good character scheme or assessment to be judged subjectively. We believe that a candidate for nationality ought to be able to demonstrate objectively whether he is entitled to it, because we do not believe that good character is something which is subject to a personal decision.
Let me give an example. For my part, I do not believe that a West Indian in my constituency, unemployed and poor, who has smashed open the gas meter is necessarily of worse character than the Minister of State, who stopped that man's family joining him in this country. I do not believe that the conventional characteristics of good character are those which ought to be used in this way. They will be determined according to the prejudices of individuals, and that should not be the case. They ought to be enshrined precisely in law and they should be subject to appeal.
I think that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that, regarding this in terms of someone who has committed a criminal offence, he has actually equated my hon. Friend the Minister of State with someone who committed a criminal offence. I think that that really is a squalid argument.
I thought that the Home Secretary would say that. Let us assume that he is right. If he is right, if he disagrees with my judgment on good character, he must agree with my point that the likes of him and the likes of me have different opinions about these matters and should not make decisions about people's futures dependent on those different opinions.
The right hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked a point mentioned in paragraph 60 of the Green Paper. It states:
it is questionable whether it would be apt to have an appeals system if good character, assessed in each case by analysing all the factors involved, were to remain the criterion for citizenship.
As the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, the final sentence of that paragraph states:
Applicants who were refused on security and similar grounds could not in any case be given a right of appeal, because of the difficulty of disclosing in public the information that had led to the refusal.
I agree with that final point. A special security category could and should be treated differently by the Home Secretary's writ. The Home Secretary could say that a man was being excluded for security reasons, and not because of a language test or because of allegations about his character. I am prepared to believe that if the Home Secretary made such an application he would make it in good faith. There is no problem about excluding security cases.
I turn to my next major objection to the Bill and to the attempts that we shall make to improve the Bill in Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman has just made a characteristically odious attack on me. He is apparently complaining about my decisions on immigration cases. In about 90 per cent. of such cases an appeals system is available. Very often, such cases go through that system. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that point and accept that the existence of an appeals system does not necessarily solve all problems? In a sense, I would be delighted if it did. If people accepted the verdicts of the appeals system, it would make life much easier. Will the right hon. Gentleman think a bit more about the implications of an appeals system?
I was about to answer it. We shall soon—if necessary on a Supply day—discuss the general question of immigration control and the appeals system. At present the appeals system is wholly unsatisfactory. The point that I was trying to make did not concern the appeals system, but the Minister's discretion in individual cases. The hon. Gentleman well understands my opinion on the way that he has used his discretion over the past 18 months.
The Home Secretary said again today that the Bill removed all discrimination between men and women, because a woman's automatic right on marriage to British citizenship had been replaced by a three year rule, and the man's five year residence qualification had been replaced by a similar three year rule. The removal of the woman's immediate and absolute right and its replacement with a three year rule is a simple example of levelling down. There is an analogy to 1928—I think that that was the date—when discrimination against women having the vote was removed on the premise that it was wrong that men should be able to vote at 21 when women could not vote until they were 35. The argument continued along the line that equality would be achieved by giving everyone the vote at 30. It is an extraordinary way of providing equality.
My main objection is not the levelling down, but the residence qualification. I feel very strongly about the way in which immigration control has been implemented during the past 18 months. It is impossible for wives and husbands to join their wives and husbands here. It often takes up to three years before a wife can get an interview in her country of origin. It often takes another two years before a judgment is made about whether she can enter Britain. After five years of waiting, she may then have to wait another three years before she qualifies for British nationality. The entry qualifications clearly discriminate against one of the sexes. Any basis of nationality that is dependent on residence, must, in itself, be discriminatory.
I have described some of our specific criticisms of the Bill. They imply the type of citizenship or nationality Bill that we should like. The Government propose to create three major classes of British citizenship: British citizens, citizens of British Dependent Territories and British overseas citizens. Even allowing for the qualifications that I have given, the first would enjoy full citizenship, the third category would have virtually no citizenship rights. We should like to see the formulation of a principal main class of British citizen. That citizenship would, or should embrace everyone born or adopted in the United Kingdom, and everyone born or adopted overseas whose parents are United Kingdom citizens. In addition the wives or husbands of British citizens would gain that right automatically on marriage. It would also include those who pass an objective test and who become naturalised or registered citizens. United Kingdom citizens, British protected persons and British subjects without citizenship who are resident here would also be included. The Government believe that we have a special obligation to immigrants under the special voucher scheme. Clearly that scheme should and will be continued. When special voucher entrants come into the United Kingdom, they should also have an automatic and immediate right to British citizenship.
Those whom the Government would make citizens of dependent territories will—if the Bill is enacted—have a generalised citizenship. That is wrong. We should like individual citizenship to be granted to the individual dependencies. Gibraltar is a special problem. I look forward to discussing this issue tommorrow afternoon with the Gibraltarian Chief Minister and some of his colleagues. I hope that I shall be allowed to return to that special subject in Committee, as it would not be sensible—let alone polite—to offer an opinion until those welcome conversations have taken place.
The third category is that of British overseas citizenship. It is not so much a status as subterfuge. The provision would include citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who live in former colonies. However, it offers them virtually nothing. Many of those who live in Commonwealth countries have rights of permanent settlement. The Government should take the initiative and should arrange discussions with the Commonwealth countries in which those people now live in security and happiness, in order to clarify and regularise their status. After those discussions, I hope that many of those citizens will acquire the full citizenship of their countries of residence. But I have no doubt that those who remain without adequate security should also be offered British citizenship.
The policy that I have put forward would extend British citizenship. As a result it would have an effect on immigration. However, even in theory, it would not have a substantial effect. In practice, the additional immigration would be negligible. Some people—and perhaps some of those Conservative Members who sit below the Gangway—will seek to argue that it is virtually an open-door policy.
What I have said would provide nothing of that sort. It is simply a nationality policy that is completely free from racial bias, and the immigration policy that flows from that. If, by enunciating that as clearly as we can, we lose some votes, so be it. We have no alternative but to describe what we believe to be true. As a result, our opposition to the Bill will be unremitting. Hugh Gaitskell described the reason why far better than I could, in a debate that took place nearly 20 years ago. He spoke about the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill and said:
the test of a civilised country is how it behaves to all its citizens of different race, religion and colour. By that test this Bill fails, and that is fundamentally why we deplore it."—[Official Report, 16 November 1961; Vol. 649 c.802.]
We shall oppose the Bill. It fails by the same test, and we shall fight it in the same way.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I should tell the House that 30 hon. Members have indicated that they wish to speak in the debate. There is no 10-minutes rule, but speeches that take more than 12 minutes will debar one or more of those 30 hon. Members.
I speak in my capacity as chairman of the all-party Hong Kong group. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department for his assurance that the Bill is not designed to weaken the links between Britain and Hong Kong.
We in this House are not exactly agreed on what form this Bill should take. However, we are all agreed that something should be done to bring our nationality laws up to date. That may seem obvious to us, but I must tell the House that it is far from obvious to those in Hong Kong. I have frequently been asked there, "If, as you say, our status and rights are unaffected by the White Paper and now the Bill, why must the description on our passports be changed? There must be some hidden motive behind this legislation." The main purpose of my speech is to obtain from the Minister of State the assurance that no such hidden motive exists, as well as several other important assurances.
Hong Kong is deeply interested in the Bill. That is, first, because any alteration in citizenship means a great deal to people in practical terms. It is hard for us, with our British passports, our unquestioned nationality and right of abode, to understand the strength and depth of the feeling of those who cannot take such rights for granted. Not for us the frustration of being channelled into separate and lengthy immigration queues. Not for us the tedium of having to apply for visas if we wish to visit a European country. Above all, not for us the uncertainty of not knowing where we shall be allowed to settle and to make our homes in future. So people in Hong Kong sit up and take notice when their rights of nationality appear to be threatened.
Secondly, as my right hon. Friend has recognised, people in Hong Kong are sensitive to evidence of any weakening of the links between Britain and Hong Kong. That may seem curious to some hon. Members who are conscious of our long and, on the whole, successful administration of the territory, our evident commitment with our forces to the area and our long-standing investments in the territory. However, doubters can cite a chain of events that has in their eyes eroded the status of Hong Kong citizens over the past 20 years. It started with the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. It was continued by the Immigration Act 1971 Act and it continues with the Bill. That is their view.
Other recent policies of the British Government have reinforced these doubts—for example, Britain's leading role in the battle with Hong Kong over textile quotas in 1977; the policy of making Hong Kong pay 50 per cent. more last year towards our defence costs; and the designation of Hong Kong students studying here as foreigners. That last development, involving greatly increased students' fees, has caused the most lamentable impression in Hong Kong. It means that many of Hong Kong's future leaders will be educated in America and Canada instead of in Britain, much to the disadvantage of this country.
With these serious doubts in the air, those of us interested in Hong Kong have taken the opportunity, ever since the introduction of the Green Paper on nationality, to impress on successive Home Secretaries the importance of ensuring that the Bill, when finally introduced, would do nothing to add to the uncertainty over the British commitment to Hong Kong.
In that we have been only partially successful. Had the Government followed the recommendations of the Green Paper, the people in Hong Kong now termed "British citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies" would have become "British overseas citizens." Whatever assurances might have been given that their present rights would be unchanged, that title would certainly have caused deep misgivings.
We were therefore pleased when the Government did what was previously deemed impossible and introduced an extra class of citizenship, that of citizenship of British dependent territories, composed of countries with especially close relations with Britain. This would surely rank higher than the status of British overseas citizens, covering former colonies and territories with more distant connections with the United Kingdom. Hong Kong is by far the largest territory whose people can claim citizenship of British dependent territories.
The introduction of the additional category of citizenship, largely for the reassurance of those in Hong Kong, has not succeeded in that objective. Paragraph 16 of the White Paper states:
The establishment of a separate citizenship for the British Dependent Territories would in no way alter the relationship between those territories and the United Kingdom, nor the Government's obligations and commitments to the dependent territories and to their citizens.
However, the people in Hong Kong are still not entirely reassured. There is no doubt that they will be looking for a further firm and clear expression of Government assurance during the passage of the Bill, especially in Committee, and some concessions in clear evidence of the Government's recognition of the strength of their case.
One of the groups most concerned about the Bill are officials and unofficials in the service of the Hong Kong Government. The combination of clause 4(1) and the provision contained in schedule 1 are more restrictive in terms of the conditions of naturalisation than paragraph 70 of the White Paper and present practice. I strongly recommend that the implications of schedule 1 should be examined carefully in Committee so that the claims of those who have faithfully served the Crown in dependent territories will not be overlooked.
I recommend one small measure that would cost nothing and would not weaken the Bill—indeed, it would have no effect on the Bill. I recommend that the passports of Hong Kong citizens should carry the words "British (Hong Kong) Citizen", and that the passports of inhabitants of other dependent territories should similarly have the name of the territory inserted in the description of the passport. That would be appreciated by the people of Hong Kong and would be helpful in pointing out to officials in other countries that the bearer of the passport has closer links with the United Kingdom in terms of nationality than a British overseas citizen. I also hope that British missions overseas will be instructed to do their utmost to safeguard the existing freedom of travel by Hong Kong citizens.
If at the same time Britain's bilateral agreements with such countries as West Germany, Denmark and Spain could be extended to British (Hong Kong) citizens, the new passport would bring an improvement in the present situation, which would do much to restore confidence. It would be disastrous if any change in nomenclature were to lead third countries to require visas or other entry certificates in addition to those now required.
I draw attention to two further clauses that are causing much concern. There is the feeling that the implications for Hong Kong of the strict provisions of clauses 13(1) and 46(2) have not been given sufficient weight. I hope that that will be considered.
There is continuing concern about the provisions covering nationality of children of British business men born in Hong Kong. The Bill proposes that only if one parent is a British citizen by birth in the United Kingdom, or is a Crown servant, or is an employee of a British firm with headquarters in England, is citizenship granted automatically to children born abroad. There is provision for the Home Secretary to make exceptions and to grant British citizenship in other cases. However, many British business men whose families have been abroad for more than one generation were not born in Britain.
It seems anachronistic to encourage business men to go overseas to establish companies that increase Britain's overseas trade and then, by introducing the clause, to raise a question mark over the citizenship of their children. It would be possible to overcome the problem by allowing in such cases the children to be registered as British citizens in the same way as the children of diplomats and Service men living abroad.
I do not wish the comparatively narrow but important problems of the expatriate living abroad to distract from my main concern with the Bill, which is the reaction to it by the people of Hong Kong. Feelings are running particularly strongly among young people in Hong Kong, who believe, however mistakenly, that the prime intention of the Bill is to turn them into second-class citizens in the eyes not only of the British but of other nationalities with whom they come into contact.
These young people clearly see the influence that we can have over their future. They wish to contribute towards the maintenance and strengthening of economic and cultural links between Hong Kong and Britain. They can play a significant role in building up Britain's trading position not only in Hong Kong and with China but in the Pacific basin as a whole, where economic expansion is on a scale unequalled in the rest of the world. In short, they recognise that their destiny is linked with that of Britain. Against that background it would be folly to risk the alienation of the citizens of Hong Kong in the course of what is meant to be no more than a tidying up of out-of-date nationality laws.
My colleagues and I consider this to be a thoroughly bad Bill and one that we shall oppose at all stages. I hope that the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) will forgive me if I do not comment on the problems of Hong Kong. His speech illustrated the point made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and others—that the Bill contains so many specific complexities that it should properly be considered by a Select Committee under the new procedure so that representatives of communities such as Hong Kong and Gibraltar can give evidence.
It was an unfortunate but perhaps, in some ways, a significant printer's error that the first copies of the Bill were issued with the title "Restricted British Nationality Bill".
I thought that the Home Secretary, for whom I have always had a soft spot, was at his most sweepingly unconvincing in his speech. His fondness for categorising citizens in the Bill has extended to categorising Members of the House into major figures and problems. I was reluctant to intervene in his speech because I did not know whether to be offended or otherwise if he did not give way to me under either of those categories.
The criticism of the Bill in principle, before I come to the details, is that it is the latest in a long line of rather shabby measures which are reducing basic rights and discriminating against ethnic minorities, stretching from the 1968 Act through the 1971 Act and various rules and regulations. It is no answer for Conservative Members below the Gangway to say that the Bill is not really racist because occasionally a white person is caught in the same unfair discriminatory net. That is the only argument that they produce to try to counter the charge that the Bill is racist, because it is racist in its effect and in the implementation of its terms. The people discriminated against are overwhelmingly from ethnic minorities. The Bill is an attempt to massage our nationality legislation to suit immigration policy. The statement made by the Leader of the House last Thursday, which has already been quoted, underlines that fact.
I listened with great interest to the speech by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. In 1968, a number of members of the Labour Party, including, to his credit, the present Leader of the Opposition, voted against the legislation. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was not among those who voted against it. He voted for it. Although I admire, as I always do, his dialectic skill in analysing the difference between the Labour Government's Green Paper and this Government's White Paper, I am left wondering, given his consistent views in recent years, which I respect and admire, where he was in the Cabinet when that Green Paper was being concocted. It is no argument to say that it was a document for discussion. That is what a Green Paper is. But Governments do not put into documents for discussion policies which they have ruled out. Indeed, in parts of that Green Paper, specific proposals were ruled out. Some of the principles that have appeared in the Bill stem undoubtedly from the Labour Government's Green Paper.
The Liberal Party produced a document in response to the Green Paper at that time. Our starting position was that there should be a positive assertion of what nationality and citizenship mean:
The guiding principle of any new statute should be that it preserves and wherever possible enhances the freedom of the individual. It should take as its starting point the needs of the individual rather than the convenience of the state. Nationality is a legal tie, conferring rights and obligations on the holder. It should not be entirely within the powers of the executive to confer or withdraw it on the arbitrary assessment of a person's degree of connection with the state. On no account should anyone be deprived of the citizenship he currently enjoys, unless he is given some other citizenship more appropriate to his needs.
That is a direct quote from the document that we produced, and on that test the Bill fails.
We welcome the provision which allows women the same rights as men to pass down citizenship and to give foreign husbands the same rights as foreign wives to register for citizenship. However, there will still not be true sex equality until the immigration rules are changed; since they make it difficult for some British girls to bring foreign husbands into Britain for settlement, and settlement is a prerequisite for citizenship.
We deplore the innovation, highlighted by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, that some people born in Britain will not automatically be British citizens. It is significant that the bodies opposed to that measure have not been confined to the ethnic minority organisations, but have included a wide canvas of concerned opinion. Those bodies include the British Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. When there is that weight of opposition to fundamental provisions, there is an obligation on the Government to listen to it rather than to say that they do not understand it.
Now that the Government have conceded that mothers should be able to transmit citizenship, that should allow children born overseas to British mothers before the Bill comes into effect to become citizens if they wish.
One of the main criticisms is that the rights of citizenship are not set out in the Bill. If we were to attempt to do that, we would say that citizenship of the United Kingdom should automatically confer certain rights upon the bearer of that nationality. Those rights should include the right of abode in the United Kingdom and territories—I accept that Hong Kong is an individual case that will have to be dealt with separately—the right to leave the country and to return freely, which implies, apart from exceptional cases, with the right of appeal, the right to a passport; the right to assistance abroad from embassies and consulates; the right to vote, to stand for public office and to sit on juries; the right to take employment, including employment in the public sector; and the right to be considered for such employment without discrimination on grounds of race, religion or sex.
Another basic objection to the main features of the Bill is that it builds in more discretionary powers for the Home Secretary. The "good character" requirement is too vague and allows far too much discretion. A test must be found and set in statute based objectively on a person's criminal and financial record.
In considering the extension of discretion to the Home Secretary or to the Minister of State one should remember the line that the Minister has taken with hon. Members on present immigration cases. I have had a number of letters from the Minister of State saying that he has too many letters to deal with. He has warned that any more letters written to him will push people further back in the queue. The impression that he has given in speeches and letters is that he has far too many cases to deal with—many thousands of them. Yet the Bill proposes a massive extension of discretionary power to the Home Secretary without any form of appeal.
If the right hon. Gentleman has too much work in this area at the moment, he will have even more when the legislation has been passed. If one works out the number of letters that he receives with the number of hours that it is possible to work in the day, he will give very little consideration to each case that comes before him. He cannot do otherwise.
The Government are making the concept of the Commonwealth less meaningful by ending the right of Commonwealth citizens to register automatically for citizenship after a certain number of years' residence. That is an important new principle. I regret it for Commonwealth reasons. It is also regrettable because of the effect that it will have on people already settled here.
In this instance we do not have to rely on theory, because we already have a practical example of the taking away of rights of people already settled here. The Pakistan Act came into effect in 1973. That Act gave Pakistanis settled here six years—until September 1979—to register as of right as United Kingdom citizens. After September 1979 they lost that right. That is what we legislated in 1973, and it is the precedent for this Bill. But the Bill proposes to give Commonwealth citizens only two years to register. After that those already settled here will lose their rights, contrary to the pledge given in the Conservative Party's manifesto at the election that those already settled here would not lose their rights.
When I have finished this point, I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.
I have made inquiries of the Pakistan embassy to find out the effect of the six-year rule in the 1973 Act. I am authorised to say that, despite the six years of publicity by the Pakistan embassy in this country, the Home Office, the JCWI and other organisations, it is doubtful whether all those eligible knew about it. Therefore, the two-year period is inadequate, especially in the light of that previous six years' experience. The embassy still does not know how many Pakistanis have lost the opportunity to register, which they had until September 1979, but the head of the standing conference on Pakistani organisations has said that "a few thousand" Pakistanis did not know about the provision until it was too late.
I now give way to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) because I know that he specialises in this subject.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the distinction is by no means valid because, whereas Pakistan nationals had to register as United Kingdom citizens within a stipulated time if they were to retain their civic rights—to join the Armed Forces, to vote, to serve on juries, to join the Civil Service and so on—Commonwealth citizens will be in no danger of losing their civic rights if they do not register as British nationals within the time stipulated in the Bill?
They lose the right to nationality. Otherwise, why is this provision in the Bill at all? If what the hon. Gentleman said is true, there is no need for this provision. We could retain the right and not put in this two-year limitation.
You made an appeal for brevity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I want to observe it. I return to the point that I made at the beginning. The Bill is seen in the context of the apparatus for the control of immigration. That apparatus has already developed to the stage where not only are innocent travellers harassed and made to suffer inconvenience and rudeness at ports of entry, but considerable expensive operations, involving dozens of police and immigration officers, are mounted to root out a handful of illegal entrants and over-stayers. Black and brown people in this country are increasingly made to present their passports when seeking jobs or when seeking medical care under the National Health Service.
The hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) referred to overseas students. Last night I heard a high commissioner make the point that all the savings of £3,000 per head that the Government hope to screw out of overseas students from now on will be wiped out if there is the loss of, say, one order for a steel strip mill that might have gone to Britain but does not do so because of the failure to train more Commonwealth people in our colleges and universities.
The Liberal Party's objection to the Bill is that it is part of the Government's overall niggardly attitude. If they give the impression to the rest of the world that they attach high priority to excluding people from this country who are not of European origin while at the same time opening the doors wide to six millon patrials from the white Commonwealth and 200 million Europeans from the EEC, they will unwittingly set a bad example for racism in this country.
The Prime Minister is fond of quoting St. Francis of Assisi and misrepresenting the parable of the Good Samaritan. I would commend to her an older text in the Book of Leviticus:
When an alien settles with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. He shall be treated as a native born among you, and you shall love him as a man like yourself".
Because the Bill falls far short of that standard, we shall oppose it.
I listened, as did the House, with great interest to the leader of the Liberal Party the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) talking about the rights that his party would give to people in this country, but he was wholly silent about the duties that obviously must accompany those rights. His idea that we ought in one massive piece of legislation to have all the rights enjoyed by citizens in this country is difficult to assimilate without realising that we already have those rights in separate Acts, and they work very well. Those Acts have nothing to do with nationality as such. A person who enjoys the citizenship of this country enjoys the rights of that colateral legislation.
I should like to address my attention first to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I cannot confess that I was surprised in any way by what he said. However, I must confess that I was somewhat shocked by the crudity of the way that he approached this problem.
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has decided that it must be in the political and electoral interests of the Labour Party deliberately to confuse the issues of immigration, nationality and race. There is nothing in the Bill that has anything to do with immigration.
As I see it, and as I hope the House sees it, the Bill is being brought in for two principal purposes. One is to give us what at present we have not got—a nationality of our own—and the other is to provide what the 1948 Act of the then Labour Administration does not provide—a sound and firm understandable foundation on which to build immigration rules which will in turn be sound and just.
I am astonished at the hon. and learned Gentleman's lack of knowledge. If he has read the
Government's White Paper, he will have seen in paragraph 26 the argument for giving British citizenship to people who will become British overseas citizens. Perhaps I might refresh his memory, or tell him for the first time, what the last sentence of that paragraph says. It says:
But if this group, of which the United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa form only a part, were to have British Citizenship the potential immigration commitment would be so large as to be quite unacceptable.
That is the reason why we are to have the category of British overseas citizen.
Yes; but it is not the basis for British nationality, as it will become, after the Bill has been passed. I suggest that the Bill has nothing to do with immigration as such, and it certainly has nothing to do with race.
Nationality and race are not two sides of the same coin. They are two different coins altogether. Those who try to introduce race into a debate on nationality are producing a dangerous mixture. They are like people who are prepared to risk pouring petrol into an oil stove. There is likely to be an explosion. Race is something that can be poisonous, harmful and damaging to a country. Nationality, with which we are now dealing, is a subject that can be of undoubted advantage to everyone living in this country.
One of the reasons why we must have a new nationality Bill lies in the extraordinary fact that there are so few people in this country, born here and living here, who would be capable of answering the simple question, "What is your nationality?" I suppose that most of us, because nationality depends upon citizenship, would be tempted to answer, "Well, we are British citizens, aren't we?" But we are not. We never have been. The law does not recognise such a status. According to our passports, as most of us know, we are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, although most of us have had no connection or association, at any stage, with the colonies.
If this appears a purely academic point, I should perhaps inform the House that a dear friend of mine, a distinguished writer and author, was going on holiday some years ago to Switzerland. The train was stopped at the German border by the German authorities, who, looking at his passport, said to him, "You will have to get another passport". They took him off the train and said, "Look, it says here you are a citizen of the colonies. Which colony? Malaysia? Kenya?" It was some time before he could proceed with his journey. This is a wholly unrealistic situation created by the 1948 Act. Forty times that Act has been amended, but it still produces the most absurd anomalies.
The 1948 Act was brought in at the time when the British Empire was breaking up. One of the matters dealt with was the question, "Who should be a British subject?" A British subject was recognised as a person who owed allegiance to the British Crown. The Act said that all Commonwealth citizens should be British subjects. Almost before the statutory ink was dry, India declared itself to be a republic. Shortly afterwards, other countries followed India's example. By 1977, as a result of the British Nationality Act 1948, there were 950 million British subjects in the world. That was one of the reasons for taking a new look at this old law.
The other anomalies are examples of what today will no doubt be described as outrageous examples of sex discrimination. The father could give his children his nationality but the mother could not. A wife took the nationality of her husband but the husband could not take hers. Children born abroad in non-Commonwealth countries could be registered with the nationality of this country, but if they happened to be born in Commonwealth countries, they could not.
I would have thought that the House as a whole would not only understand but would agree that we must have a new British nationality law. All Governments, it seems, have paid recognition in some way to this fact. This is the only Government who have had the guts to do something about it. It matters not what Government are in power. Any Government with the guts to touch this hypersensitive nerve, the political nerve and the social nerve of nationality are bound to get opposition. It is right that this House at all stages should look with the greatest care at what the Government at the moment intend shall be the provisions of the new nationality Bill. It is essential, I suggest, that this approach to the Bill should be a rational one. It should be done on the basis that this is a Bill that deals exclusively with nationality.
The Bill contains provisions that are open to strong debate. However, it seems very peculiar that the Opposition, who, as the Labour Government, produced a Green Paper in 1977 with what appeared, at the time, to be a promise of reform of the nationality law, approaching that objective in a perfectly reasonable, and, in many ways, attractively phrased argument, should now seek to go back on what was contained in the Green Paper and should seek to use various provisions that are either adoptions of what was said in the Green Paper or reflections of the influence in the Green Paper for political and electoral ends. To hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, this is what seems to be happening.
I give one example. I have submitted to the House, with great earnestness, that this Bill is concerned exclusively with nationality. I have also submitted, as did the argument followed in the 1977 Green Paper, that the new law is needed in order to give us what we have not got at the moment—a single and separate nationality of our own. It is also required in order to provide a foundation for immigration rules later on. Furthermore, this is a requirement that has been seen by many other countries in the West and the East. At the moment, it is fair and accurate to say that the confusion between our nationality laws and our immigration rules is greater than in any other country, East or West. It is obvious that we must do something about them, That is the conclusion in the Green Paper.
In the preface to the arguments that are advanced in the Green Paper, there is an admission that
our present law of citizenship…as its name implies, relates both to the United Kingdom and overseas territories; it does not identify those who belong to this country and have the right to enter and live here freely".
Then follow these words, to which I urge Opposition Members to pay particular regard:
it prevents the United Kingdom from basing its immigration policies on citizenship. Our citizenship is in these respects different from the citizenships of many other countries including our partners in the European Community.
The 1948 Act has been the thorn in the side of every Government who have had to deal with nationality since 1948. Now that we have the chance of removing its worst defects and repealing those aspects of our present nationality law which are offensive, not only to us but to people overseas, we must make use of that opportunity to
provide ouselves with a nationality law which is generally viewed by people overseas as being acceptable both to people inside and outside our country.
I am sure that it is well known by all hon. Members that many of those who belong to ethnic minorities in this country see a protection in the provisions of this new law which identify them as British citizens—a protection which would be of the greatest value to them as citizens of this country.
The Bill deserves and I believe will get the full support of the citizens of this country who want to be what this Bill will make them, British citizens.
I do not suppose that there can be any greater subject to which the House could address itself than this, going as it does to the whole basis of our existence, the very definition of who we think we are.
It is one-third of a century, a whole generation of men, since we last legislated upon the subject of British nationality. In those intervening years we have had full opportunity to realise how little the implications of that Act were understood by those who put it on the statute book, and how little they saw the seriousness of the consequences that would follow from the decisions that they took. We must avoid, if we can, a repetition of that experience. The Government's contribution is, above all, to ensure that the House has ample time not merely for debate but for reflection upon the Bill as it makes its way to the statute book that there is ample time between the stages of the Bill, and that the Committee stage is taken for what it will be, not a means of obstructing or advancing Government business, but something serious in itself, which affects our deepest responsibilities.
When the House last legislated in 1948 there were still one status, and one basis for that status, known to our law. For all practical purposes, there was a single status, and that was British subject, and there was a single basis, and that was allegiance. Broadly speaking, to be born within the allegiance constituted the basis of British subjecthood.
Until well into this century that equation of basis with status, and of status with rights and duties, remained effective. But there was a time bomb underneath it. For, as the dominions of the Crown successively extended over a quarter of the globe, the meaning of British subject extended far beyond the possibility of its being given any common meaning in terms of rights and duties. The consequences, not felt at first, came home to us when, after the Second World War, there was an immense change in the mobility of mankind, a change of explosive, revolutionary character, which made no longer tenable that acceptance of the growing anomaly of British subjecthood, which had hitherto been possible.
In 1948 Parliament abolished allegiance as the basis of status. It substituted for allegiance an aggregation of separate citizenships. It took the citizenships of the then self-governing parts of the British Empire or Commonwealth and equated those citizenships with the status of British subject. But then, of course, in 1948–49 it was still left with many hundreds of millions of human beings within the dominions of the Crown who had no such self-legislated citizenship. By a disastrous error, it was decided to lump all that residue under one title called a citizenship, and to describe them as "citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies". There could have been no more crass offence against common sense than to create a citizenship to which no State, no reality, no actuality, corresponded.
There was a further consequence of those fundamental changes made by the 1948 Act. It was that status, on the one hand, and rights and duties, on the other hand, came completely apart. What should have been identical—two sides of the same coin—became completely detached. In our law in this United Kingdom, unlike any other part of the Commonwealth, rights and duties were attached not to the new, however unsatisfactory concept, of citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies; they remain attached to the former allegiance-based concept of British subject. It was a contradiction of the reality in which we were living as the 1940s and the 1950s proceeded; and one of the consequences of the 1948 Act was that immigration into this country on a massive and unforeseen scale was able to take place within the parameters of our own nationality law.
As the years went by, it was seen increasingly to be unsatisfactory that we should have a citizenship which meant nothing, and a content of nationhood—the status of British subject—which could not be offered, was not being offered, would not be offered, to all who were termed British subjects. It is to the resolution of that impossible situation, as it now stands after 30 years, that this legislation is devoted—to the business of reuniting status and reality, status and statehood, status and rights and duties.
I do not think that the Bill in its present form has by a long way succeeded in doing that. I do not say it is incapable of being so remoulded that it does do so; but in its present form, I do not believe that it has solved—in some cases I do not believe it has tackled—the problems with which we are confronted.
First, the Bill has retained what I might call the rag-bag principle, which landed us with citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Our complaint hitherto was of having, on the one hand, British subject and on the other, citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies; but what do we have now? We have British citizens, citizens of British dependent territories, British overseas citizens, British subjects—almost the last grade—and right at the bottom of the sump, as it were—although indeed it is a series of sumps, one below another—Commonwealth citizens, who are not, as hitherto, to be equated with British subjects, but are to be a sort of residual designation.
As I understand the Bill, to none of those categories, other than British citizens, do any real entities correspond. They do not correspond to States. The British dependent territories do not constitute a State. The Bill does not offer to those who will be their citizens any interchange of rights and obligations between them. They are merely a residuum that has been lumped together for purposes of convenience and designated as a citizenship. Unless I misread the Bill, the same, a fortiori, is true of British overseas citizens and of residual British subjects, as of Commonwealth citizens, in the cosmetic clause.
I found myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) when he said he believed that we should have taken things as they are, faced the reality of the dependent overseas territories and, however difficult it might be, endowed them each with a citizenship of its own that would at least have a definite and normal meaning in relation to each of the territories. I would not have thought it to be outside the scope of the Bill that that possibility could be considered in the later stages. Certainly it is unsatisfactory that as it were this debris of the past should be left as a result of an operation that ought to place us on a new basis.
In the same way, the Bill has not succeeded in bringing together status on the one hand and rights and duties on the other. Of course, the Home Secretary says—and quite rightly—that this is a Bill about nationality and that rights and duties are defined in other legislation; but in our other legislation rights and duties are still defined on a different basis. In the case of voting, for example, they are defined upon the basis of British subjecthood. In the case of abode they are still defined on the complex basis, not entirely, as I understand it, replaced by the Bill, which is enshrined in the 1971 Act.
So the House is being invited to consider a new status, that of British citizen, without any clear concept of what are the fundamental rights and duties that will correspond to it. By fundamental rights and duties I mean the right to enter or leave the realm at will and the right of the franchise; but I mean also the right—it is as well a duty and a privilege—of serving the nation in peace and particularly—the ultimate test of nationality—in war.
What then is the basis of citizenship and nationality which the Bill is proposing instead of that which was done away with in 1948—for it is not now to be allegiance—and instead of that which was substituted in 1948—for it is not now to be a list of other people's citizenships? It is quite a remarkable basis; and I am surprised that the debate has gone so far without attention being drawn to the matter. It is to be found in the first subsection of the first clause. It is not wholly birth within the allegiance, nor is it wholly descent: it is a combination of the two. That is very curious, something that the House, here and in Committee, should ponder long; for here, indeed, is the philosophical foundation on which we are attempting to build everything else.
There are countries that have a jus soli—a right of the soil—which is essentially, I believe, feudal: the product of the soil is the property of the lord. Other countries such as Switzerland have a jus sanguinis—a right of blood: a man is a Swiss citizen not by being born in Switzerland, but by being descended from a Swiss. Here, however, the Government have presented us, at any rate at this stage, with an imperfect combination of the two. It is not to be all who are born within the United Kingdom: it is those who are born in the United Kingdom of a particular descent—and a very peculiar combination is assembled in the definition of that descent.
The change is not that there is a combination of the jus soli and the jus sanguinis. Those were both present under citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. What is so disturbing about the new Bill is the imperfection to which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. Not all born of descent will get citizenship.
I am not sure that I entirely follow the hon. Gentleman, but this I will concede to him. The old principle up to 1948 of allegiance as the basis of nationality did, indeed, in a curious way combine the two jura. As long as those born within the realm were likely to be relatively homogeneous, the problem was not present. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman has put his finger—or guided my finger—to the spot that is crucial not merely for the Government in drafting their Bill, but for us.
Yes, indeed. It is what we all mean by common descent—the notion not of consanguinity, but of being the sort of people who have lived in that territory in generations gone by. I use the word in a less precise sense than the Swiss, who define exactly what they mean by descent.
Let the House make no mistake: it was the endeavour to combine those two principles upon which the Government found themselves spitted in the drafting of the Bill. And their difficulty is only a reflection of the real difficulty that we all know exists in this country—however we care to denominate it, on whatever side we may be in the debates that swirl around it.
What has happened to the Government and to the Bill is that the old principle of allegiance, which we turned out of doors in 1948, is found to be not dead but sleeping; for allegiance is the very essence of nationhood, there is no meaning in nationhood without allegiance. Nationhood means that a man stands to one nation, to one loyalty, against all others—that is what it is about. However, I do not believe that the attempt as at present in the Bill to combine birth within the territory with a certain limitation upon descent has satisfied the true test of allegiance.
Let me give an illustration. One matter has not yet been mentioned at all, curiously enough, in the debate—dual citizenship. There is an immense quantity of dual citizenship in the United Kingdom at present, an immense range of possession of dual citizenship, dormant or otherwise. Is dual citizenship really compatible with nationality? Is it really compatible with the inherent obligations and implications of allegiance that lie at the foundation of national status and nationhood?
The Government have introduced almost offhand—there was just a sentence about it in the Home Secretary's speech—another radical change in the law of nationality. Hitherto, despite the rules in the Immigration Act 1971 governing the right of abode, nationality was transmitted in our law by the male. Under the Bill, nationality is transmitted alternatively either through the male or through the female.
That has two implications. One is that the scope for dual citizenship—for dual nationality, alternative nationality—is enormously increased. The second is that we touch something much deeper than nationality law when we—almost lightheartedly—replace the transmission of the duty of allegiance from father to son with a possibility of transmission of allegiance from mother to son, while the father can transmit, at the same time or alternatively, a different allegiance. I do not believe that Parliament can leave so profound a question—I was going to say undecided, but I think that there may even be a danger that we leave it undebated.
The particular form which the right of descent has taken is—as hon. Members may see from a glance at the beginning of the Bill—to limit descent by residence—to create, as it were, the right or ability of transmitting citizenship by virtue of residence in this country. I wonder how that can be reconciled with the ultimate implications and requirements of nationality. Is it acceptable that persons who have or have acquired the right of residence in this country and who are exercising that right perfectly peaceably and properly should thereby become qualified to create British nationality in their offspring in this country? That question has so far not been opened in the debate; but it is a question which we cannot leave on one side if we are going to provide for the next generation a workable basis of nationality, something which was not provided for the last generation in 1948.
As I said before, I do not believe that any of these matters are incapable of being dealt with within the framework of the present Bill. I have tried to suggest to the House the immense profundity, the almost unbounded implications, of what we are doing by once again, in the Bill, changing the basis of our nationality. We should weigh what we are doing—weigh the implications of what we are doing—for the present and the future population of this country in a way that will require many months of work from the House and from its Committees.
I am honoured to follow the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whose eloquence always holds the interest of the House whenever he addresses it on any subject within his wide experience.
I am grateful to have caught your eye at this stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will endeavour to get my views across in what is an important debate. It will have a considerable impact over a wide area if the Bill is enacted in its present form.
I speak as chairman of the British-Gibraltar Group, and in that capacity wish to refer specifically to part II of the Bill, which seeks to create a new definition of British dependent territories citizens, and to schedule 6, which includes the dependent territory of Gibraltar among the colonies which will be required to accept dependent territory citizenship status after the passing of the Bill.
The Minister is well aware of the considerable public and political concern that has been expressed in Gibraltar about the Bill, which is seen as downgrading the people of Gibraltar from their present position, which they consider to be Gibraltar British. They feel that this sense of belonging to Britain will be removed if the Bill is passed with schedule 6 in its present form.
In his written reply to my parliamentary question on 15 January my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that although the proposals in the Bill laid down that birth in, or other close connection with, Gibraltar would qualify the holders for citizenship of the British dependent territories
this decision in no way alters the constitutional position of Gibraltar in relation to the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend also indicated that the people of Gibraltar have the right as
United Kingdom nationals for European Community purposes"—[Official Report, 15 January 1981; Vol. 996, c. 612]
to enter the United Kingdom to seek and take up employment. Such a citizenship right is useful as long as Britain remains a member of the European Community. But there is a grave danger to that right should we ever be unfortunate enough to have a Left-wing Socialist Government, who are committed to withdrawing from the European Community. While I do not see the electorate of this country being gullible enough to elect such a Government the people of Gibraltar are entitled to be
safeguarded against such an eventuality. Now is the time to do it, while this Government are in power, by removing Gibraltar from schedule 6 and giving every Gibraltarian the right to British citizenship.
There is a strong case to consider the special factors which relate to Gibraltar. It is the only dependent territory which can never become independent, even if that was the wish of the people of Gibraltar. At present, no restriction is placed on the number of Gibraltarians allowed to enter the United Kingdom for employment, and to settle. They are subject to no form of control after entry, nor are they required to register with the police, as other aliens are required to do. They are eligible for any type of employment in Britain and their employment is not conditional upon there being no local labour available, which is the normal restriction on other persons entering Britain.
These agreements were made in 1968 by the then Labour Government, following the Thomson report, and although assurances have been given by successive Governments that there would be no change in the future, the passing of the Bill will give this Government, or any future Government, the right to withdraw these concessions and to place upon the people of Gibraltar restrictions which do not exist at present. Therefore, what assurance can my hon. Friend the Minister give that if Gibraltar is not removed from schedule 6 its people will not lose the rights they enjoy now? I hope that that assurance will be forthcoming when my hon. Friend winds up the debate.
There is also the question, in support of the Gibraltarians' wish to become British citizens, of the proposals of the Commission to the Council of the European Communities, dated 31 July 1979. It concerns a Council directive on a right of residence for nationals of member States independent of the pursuit of an occupational activity in the territory of another member State. If this proposal were to be approved by the Council of Ministers, Gibraltarians, as United Kingdom Community nationals, and as distinct from the people of any other dependent territory outside Europe, would have the right of abode in Britain. If they will have the right of abode by the 1968 assurances, and the 1979 proposals, surely the Minister should accept that this strengthens the case for the Gibraltarians to be excluded from schedule 6 and retain their position, or at least have the right of dual nationality, as referred to by the right hon. Member for Down, South.
Over a period of many years the national status of the people of Gibraltar as British subject citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies has been shared with the people of the United Kingdom, and has been a source of great pride to the Gibraltarians. The ties between the people of Gibraltar and the people of the United Kingdom have been stronger than anywhere else in the world. Gibraltar has been a British fortress and naval base for nearly three centuries, which has resulted in a deep sense of patriotism and identification with Great Britain. That is now threatened by the provisions in the Bill that affect the Gibraltarians. The ties with Britain are further strengthened by the realisation that at least 10,000 Gibraltarians have at present settled in the United Kingdom and that 30 per cent. of Gibraltarians now resident in Gibraltar are entitled to United Kingdom passports, because of either their ancestry or their birth in the United Kingdom. The measures in this Bill will, therefore, create a most unfortunate divide among the people of Gibraltar, which would be a sad reflection on Great Britain, when the Gibraltarians' loyalty to Britain is so deeply felt by all who live there in difficult circumstances.
What Gibraltarians cannot appreciate is that the Channel Islanders and Manxmen are being excluded from part II and schedule 6. I agree entirely that they seem entitled to feel slighted by the Government's proposals to downgrade them to what they consider will be second-class citizens, while other territories not so closely aligned to the United Kingdom will be allowed to continue their status of United Kingdom citizenship to the full.
I should have liked to elaborate to a much greater extent on the reasons why Gibraltar should be excluded from schedule 6, but I shall heed the the wish of the Chair that speeches should be brief.
If the Minister cannot see his way to make this gesture now and undertake to remove Gibraltar from schedule 6, when the Bill goes to Committee, hon. Members who are selected to serve there will table amendments which will be acceptable to the Minister and result in the Government agreeing to the request of the Gibraltarians in respect of their citizenship position. That will maintain the depth of trust which the people of Gibraltar have for the people of the United Kingdom. As dual nationality is being retained in the Bill, it should be given to the people of Gibraltar. We honoured Malta during the last war for its gallant effort against the enemy: Let us now honour the people of Gibraltar by acceding to this simple request—one which is paramount to the future of all who live and work in Gibraltar, and who trust this Government to give them a fair deal.
I can only conclude by referring to a very simple, but impassioned, appeal that I have received from a group of ordinary people in Gibraltar. It is one of many that I have received. It states:
I am a Gibraltarian married with three sons. We are very proud to be British and to live in British Gibraltar, like the majority of Gibraltarians. I would like you to do all in your power for us please so that we can get the nationality citizenship of the United Kingdom when the White Paper comes out and keep Gibraltar British for ever. God bless our Queen. Your faithful servant.
That letter, with others like it, has been sent to me because of the proposals in the Bill. Those who have written are like the 400 ex-Service men who stood by Britain in two world wars and the 105 members of the Honourable Order of the British Empire who live in Gibraltar. They are all begging the Government not to alter the existing status of the people of Gibraltar.
Need I say more? The letter says it all. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will indicate that he will take the matter back for consideration and make amended proposals in respect of Gibraltar before the Bill comes back to the House on Third Reading.
I take as my starting point in my concern about the Bill the interests of minority groups and of the individual citizens who are members of those groups. We must concern ourselves with the position of the Gibraltarians, of Hong Kong citizens, and of many other special minority groups. I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) will forgive me if I do not pursue in detail the line that he was arguing, sympathetic though I may be to the position of individual groups. Instead, I shall turn to more general considerations.
My first concern is that the Bill demeans us as a society, just as so much that has been done by different Governments in dealing with immigration in the past two decades has demeaned us as a society and as individual members of that society. People who are self-confident, upright and reasonably civilised would not have been obsessed with the irrational fears that have characterised so many of the actions of us who should have led. Nor would they have been led, with however much convolution, down the atavistic paths indicated, in spite of the quality of so much of his speech, by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
We should have led and we have not done so. The vast majority of people in this country are far more tolerant than many of the actions of their political representatives have suggested over the years, just as the success achieved by most Commonwealth immigrants is way ahead of what many people in the race relations industry have secured. This is in spite of the many problems still to be tackled.
This is an illiberal, racist and discriminatory Bill with little to commend it. Once again a Government have pandered to fear, prejudice and racism, whatever declarations individual Ministers may have made on their own behalf. In recent years—perhaps belatedly—most, but not all, people in politics at all levels, nationally and locally, have moved away from these influences on decision-making. But since that infamous occasion three years ago when the Prime Minister spoke of the fears of being swamped, the hard line, authoritarian Right wingers in the Conservative Party have held ultimate sway on Government decisions in this area, as in other aspects of home affairs.
There was that sick and sad occasion when the Minister of State the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) caved into them at the Conservative Party conference in 1979, in contrast to the brave and courageous stand by Lord Carr, when he was Home Secretary, against the same kind of people at the 1973 conference.
There seems to be something of this quality, combined with much sloppy thinking, in parts of the Home Office, under all Governments, and that has influenced immigration law and administrative policy on and off for the past 20 years as it influenced aliens legislation before then. I know that there are others of different attitudes and understanding in the Department, but they do not often seem to dominate thinking.
I have spoken so far only of immigration because, in spite of what was said by the Home Secretary and one or two hon. Members after him, the Bill is not really about citizenship. It is an attempt to build a nationality law—there is a distinction between nationality and citizenship concepts—on the present messy immigration rules. These are the latest moves in a shameful history of fear of so-called aliens, of black and brown immigrants. It goes back over generations. It did not start in the 1960s.
Many of those families have greater delight and pride in the liberality, culture, liberties, and fair-minded tradition and history of the best in Britain than do many who treat these as "beyond the pale". That is why I feel such a love for this country. My grandparents were refugees from Tsarist Russia and I ought point out that, if the proposed legislation had been in operation after they arrived, I would not be here—no doubt to the pleasure of one or two hon. Members. My parents or I would have had to apply to the Home Secretary for British citizenship. I have more pride in the best in this country than is reflected in the sort of thinking that has led to the Bill and much that has gone before. I fear for the future of this country, which has so much yet to give if only we would will it, if we continue with such attitudes.
We should start by defining British nationality and its rights and obligations, attaching to it a right to enter the country. It is shameful and disgraceful that we should be missing an opportunity to think out calmly what should be British citizenship—a concept which should embrace rights and duties of citizens. It is something which the Bill fails to deal with.
To my knowledge, not one organisation has welcomed the Bill. The White Paper on which it is based was criticised in detail by Justice, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Commission for Racial Equality, the National Council for Civil Liberties, the London Voluntary Service Council, local authorities and every community relations, immigrant and race relations body concerned, many of which I do not have time to list, which made submissions and examined the White Paper and the Bill.
I have seen several of the submissions made to the Home Secretary. Copies were distributed and they included representations from my borough of Brent, where I have lived and worked in the community for many years—since long before being elected to the House they came from the Brent Community Relations Council, the Brent Indian Association and others, including the borough council.
About 40 per cent. of Brent families hail originally from the Caribbean, Africa, India or Pakistan—88,000 people out of a total population of 268,000. I do not cringe at that or detect anywhere that I go in the borough—except among a few odd extremists of the Right and others—feelings of anxiety or fear that we will be swamped. We live in a civilised society and we must face up to our problems as a community and as individuals, seeking to do what we can for a decent life for ourselves and our neighbours.
I and other hon. Members raised objections with the Home Secretary and urged him to give the Select Committee on Home Affairs time to consider the whole matter before the Bill was introduced. There might have been a possibility of avoiding party division if that approach had been adopted in the first instance. No one can claim that there was such an urgent need to introduce the legislation that such an approach had to be ignored. We should have had a comprehensive examination, through the Select Committee procedure, of the issues raised in the White Paper and of others on which it did not touch.
Despite all the criticism and complaints, the Home Secretary has brought forward a Bill based almost word for word on a White Paper that talks of "privileges"—not rights—associated with citizenship. But privileges can be withdrawn by a decision of the Home Secretary. No wonder no rights are included in the Bill.
The Bill is another example of how the Government are seeking to confer massive executive powers on Ministers. The Home Secretary is trying to emulate the Secretaries of State for Industry and the Environment in the industrial, local government and housing legislation that they have brought before the House. The Government are supposed to be committed to reducing the power of the State, but the Bill gives the Home Secretary more power, not less, over the lives of individuals. It helps to destroy the myth. No doubt the Government, supported by their Back Benchers, will introduce other legislation to confer more executive powers on Ministers so that they will not have to refer their actions and decisions to Parliament. The myth has gone.
It seems that, in many instances, one is British only if the Home Secretary chooses to say so. If he decides that a person is not British, there will be no appeal to the courts. I should mention here that I am dissatisfied with the way that the present appeals system under immigration law has developed. The time has come to look again at how that operates and to insert it into our system of law so that it is administered by the courts, rather than by tribunal.
I should like to see an appeal to the courts provided for in the Bill. For many, citizenship by grant will involve the longer and more costly process of naturalisation after long residence and it will lead to long waits for many members of families. The success of an application can be denied by the Home Secretary on the ground that an individual is not of good character. What a power to lie with any Home Secretary‡
Yes, but that does not mean that it must continue. I am opposed to its continuance. It needs to be put into law and made subject to the courts and not the arbitrary decision of civil servants or Ministers.
In view of some of the observations that I and others have made, inside and outside the House, it is no wonder that, despite the concern expressed by the Home Secretary, my constituents are telephoning and writing to me in great distress, wondering what will happen to them and their children. White as well as black and brown people are expressing concern about their friends and families.
I represent thousands of people of many ethnic origins—Central European, East European, Irish, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and others. Many are naturally concerned about their future. For example, what would happen if an Indian couple who have lived here for 20 years had a child while on holiday abroad? Under the Bill, that child would not be entitled to British nationality and would have to apply to the Home Secretary for it. The right hon. Gentleman alone would have the discretion to decide and to assess whether the parents were "closely associated" with this country.
Similarly, even children born here, though to parents who are not British, will lose their automatic right to be British citizens—something which will weigh heavily in the minds of immigrants who are worried about their status, including those from colonies that have recently achieved, or have yet to achieve, independence. And that is not to speak of the many thousands of United Kingdom passport holders who will be made virtually stateless by the Bill. How mean can a proud country such as this, with its international history and regard, get with this sort of legislation?
The Bill has failed to rationalise our nationality law, which certainly stood in need of that. Instead, it institutionalises the racialist patriality concept of the Immigration Act 1971. It fails to provide clear definitions of the rights and obligations of citizens and creates instead three types of citizen, two of the types being virtually valueless, and thereby perpetuates the misunderstanding, confusion and resulting miseries of the so-called non-patrial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. At the same time, it tries to maintain world-wide responsibility for people who have no connection with Britain other than a grandparent born here.
The contents of the Bill should be viewed with grave concern across the House, not least for what it does to us as a so-called civilised society. As the years go by, we seem to sink lower as we try to accommodate prejudice instead of standing foursquare against it, exposing it for what it is. Instead, racial discrimination is tolerated and legitimised by successive immigration laws and practices. We speak of good race relations but then proceed to damage them by such legislation as this. We speak without care or thought for the effect which our words have upon individuals who happen to be members of ethnic minorities, as well as the effect that they have upon ourselves, the majority of the community.
As was indicated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) some of the language of the White Paper is of this kind. There was reference to the pool of people who will provide some kind of shadowy threat if they do not have citizenship rights automatically removed from their children. That is one element in the White Paper. It talks about people as though they are a pool of something. We are talking about individuals and their families and children.
We disturb and damage our society when a Bill such as this is rushed through. The Government know that there is no urgent need for this legislation, but they have chosen to gratify bigots and racists. Ministers should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
It is not yet too late. Instead of pushing the Bill through in its present form, it would be better for it to be withdrawn. At the very least, Ministers should provide for it to go through the new special Standing Committee procedure; if they cannot agree to it being taken on the Floor of the House, at least they should agree on that. Members could then examine witnesses before the Bill was considered under the usual Standing Committee procedure.
The Bill should be drastically amended to provide that citizenship is based on equal rights and duties for all concerned, that there is no discrimination, that it is not based on immigration control and racialist criteria, and that the abitrary and frightening discretionary power of the Home Secretary is removed, along the lines that I indicated earlier. If this is not done, we shall be lowered in our own eyes and in the eyes of the international community. It is about time that the House as a whole took a stand, representing a civilised community, in matters of this kind.
Until the right hon. Member for Down South (Mr. Powell) spoke, I had not appreciated that there are at least five separate layers of category provided for in the Bill. I had appreciated that there were four, and that seemed to me to be not a very up to date or modern provision to make. It is worth repeating what those four categories are. There is British citizenship, there is citizenship of the British dependent territories, there is British overseas citizenship and there are British subjects. [Interruption.] Well, there may be six, but there are four main ones.
I have a few general criticisms to make on the lines that, although nationality law is certainly within the competence of the country concerned, there is an obligation so to arrange one's nationality law that it is at least readily comprehensible to foreigners, and to foreign Governments in particular. When nationals get into trouble abroad, foreign Governments are entitled to know which is the State responsible for receiving them when they are deported. There is an obligation upon what is called the home State to accept nationals who have misbehaved when abroad. For that and for other reasons, it is essential, if we are to reform and update—whatever are the progressive verbs used—our nationality law that we should make it at least sufficiently simple for that obligation to be capable of fulfilment. I do not believe that the Bill does that.
All those people with the word "British" in front of their category—whether they are British citizens, British overseas citizens, British subjects or citizens of the British dependent territories—are presumably entitled to the protection of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom—the London Government. If anyone in any of those four categories wishes to have the good offices of London, he is entitled to those good offices, even if he has never been anywhere near the United Kingdom. That applies to anyone who is a British subject, or even a British protected person.
Therefore, since we presumably deserve, vis-à-vis third countries, the obligation and the right to intervene on behalf of such persons, we presumably have to accept the corollary, which is that we have to receive them, if they are deported to this country.
According to the Court of Appeal case of Thakrah, we do not accept such persons if they have not a right of entry into this country, even though we have the duty and the right to intervene on their behalf with foreign Governments. Therefore, unless the various categories with the word "British" in front of them are rationalised—now that we are involved in a modernisation of our nationality law—the Government are in some danger of getting into an anomalous position vis-à-vis third States.
The matter becomes peculiarly urgent in the case of the second of the categories, that is to say, citizenship of the British dependent territories. It is clear from clause 13 that this is a single citizenship. Even though it spreads through all the continents and oceans of the world, as can be seen from appendix C of the White Paper it is a single citizenship, because, as clause 13 of the Bill states,
A person born in a dependent territory after commencement shall be a citizen of the British Dependent Territories if at the time of the birth his father or mother is… a citizen of the British Dependent Territories".
That surely means that a father who originates from or was born in the Cayman Islands and goes to Hong Kong, where his wife gives birth to a child, knows that that child is a citizen of the British dependent territories. It does not matter which dependent territory the child's parents were members of as long as the birth occurs in one or other of them. It is a single citizenship. The only common factor about it is that it is British. But the United Kingdom is the one country to which the rule does not apply, of all the Commonwealth countries. It is, as it were, divorced from the United Kingdom. But the dependent territories are considered as having an entity and life of their own—at least, so one would have considered by reading the clause that I have just read.
It would have followed from that clause, I should have thought, that if a citizen of one of the British dependent territories, at any rate, got into trouble in a third State, the country concerned—for example, the United States of America—could, if it so chose, deport that person to any other dependent territory and that other dependent territory would be obliged to receive him—if it is a single citizenship, as it is made out to be. This was deliberately chosen. As will be seen from paragraph 15 of the White Paper, the alternative arrangement was considered. The alternative of having separate citizenships for each of the dependencies, which would have avoided any such anomaly, was rejected on the ground that it was
not…really practicable to establish individual citizenships for each of the dependent territories
they vary in size and political organisation.
I should have thought that that was a reason why they should have separate citizenships. If they vary in size and political organisation, the quality of their citizenship should surely be different.
It therefore seems to me that this is a serious defect in the Bill. It will lead the Government into great anomalies vis-à-vis third countries. They say in one breath that this is a single citizenship, but in another part of the White Paper—though not in the Bill—they say that each of the dependent territories will have the power to keep out citizens of other dependent territories. Paragraph 102 of the White Paper states:
It will be necessary, because of the need of dependencies to impose controls on immigration, to restrict the right of entry to each of them to those Citizens of the British Dependent Territories who are such by reason of a connection with that territory.
That must mean that although it is a single citizenship, nevertheless the chief quality of a single citizenship is totally lacking. A person cannot move freely between one territory and another, because each of the dependent territories is being invited—not merely allowed—to make rules to allow their fellow citizens, for so they are in every sense of the word, to be kept out.
Anomaly may be piled upon anomaly as a result of this well-intentioned, natural—and, I think, somewhat sentimental—wish to preserve what the right hon. Member for Down, South rather unkindly described as the "debris" of the British Empire. I should not have used the word "debris", but I know what he means. Secondly, many of the dependent territories—Gibraltar, perhaps, or Hong Kong; what one might describe as the more sophisticated of them—wish very much to have the word "British" before the name of their territory.
I thought that the suggestion that the name of the territory should be included on the cover of the passport was a good one. Otherwise, one cannot expect third States to distinguish—particularly horizontally, but also vertically—between various forms of British citizenships. What they will in fact do will be to deport everyone to London, unless there is a clear indication of the place of origin or at least of the country or territory of origin on the passport. I do not believe that London would be able to refuse those people, even though they would not be entitled to come here voluntarily.
For those and many other reasons, in what is really a one-point speech, I suggest that the Government should think again on their second category. To my mind, it is not sensible to create a new citizenship which spreads all over the world, into countries which vary in size and state of political organisation and which are totally dissimilar one from another. There can be no loyalty to an amorphous body of that kind. There can be loyalty to Anguilla. There can be loyalty to Hong Kong. There can be loyalty to Britain. But to create a second class of British citizenship over this amorphous area is to deprive people of the kind of loyalty to which they are entitled—the feeling that they belong. Nobody in Hong Kong feels that he belongs to the Pitcairn Islands, and nobody in the Pitcairn Islands feels that he belongs to Gibraltar. Unless people have a nationality which gives them a feeling of belonging, one is not giving them a proper nationality at all.
This is the only country in the world without its own citizenship. For us to take it now, at this late stage of our history, does not seem to me to be a racialist act, and I should not so describe the Bill in its central concept. It arises out of our history, which was briefly reveiwed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Before 1948, everyone within the British Commonwealth was a British subject. We moved away from that position because Canada, New Zealand and Australia wished to bring in their own citizenship control. To do that, they had to have their own citizenship. They therefore wished to abandon the common code.
According to the White Paper and the right hon. Member for Down, South, British subject status was based on the concept of allegiance to the Crown. That is the statement of the leading authority on the subject, Professor Parry. In fact, it is a misnomer. Even at that stage different parts of the Commonwealth could determine who was a British subject by their own definitions of that concept. It was still part of the common code that people who would be regarded as British subjects in one territory would not be so regarded in another. It was based not on the definition of allegiance, but on the definition of where they were born or from whom they were descended.
That is one of the central answers to the campaign being waged against the Bill by Mrs. Dummet and an number of others who take the same view. They say that before we establish the bases for a nationality Bill we must establish objective tests of nationality. There is no such thing. The only way to determine nationality is by the central precepts of the two laws referred to by the right hon. Member for Down, South. We must take the jus soli or the jus sanguinis, or both, that is to say, the person was born in the country or is descended from somebody who was born in the country, or both.
The central criticism of the Bill is that, whereas since 1948 citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies has depended upon both those tests, the Bill tries to monkey about with the test of being born in the country in order to keep out some people who are thought not to be desirable, namely, children born of people who are not settled here. That has not been the case since 1948. From 1948 until now, if one was born in this country, one became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
It seems to me to be wrong to depart from that principle. Whatever the intent, the practical effect will be racialist, in that it will fall hardest upon black people, rather than on white people, although of course, it will affect the latter. The fact that we did not think it necessary to make that distinction from 1948 until now, when large numbers of white people were coming here and having children here, tends to emphasise that central thrust against the Bill.
In 1948, when other countries decided that they would take their own citizenship, we should have done the same. We should have said that we were citizens of the United Kingdom. We should not have said that we were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. What we did was to say that everyone else could take their own citizenship—Canada, India, Jamaica and the rest—and that we would take all the others. In other words, anyone who could not become a citizen of one of those countries would become a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
That may have been a laudable objective of the Labour Government of 1948—backed, I may say, by the Conservative Opposition—but it was disastrous in its effect, because it meant that when we came up against the emotional problems of immigration there was no logical basis on which we could make a non-racialist test about who should be allowed in and who should not. What happened was that successive Governments applied distinctions to the same category of citizenship. Even today, we who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies are in the same legal category as those who live in Malaysia, Hong Kong or anywhere else: we are all citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
The only difference is that, in 1948, the Labour Government said that there were some kinds of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who would be allowed in, and some who would not. In 1971 the Conservative Government consummated that Act by calling some "partial" and some "non-patrial", but they were still citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
We now have to rewrite our citizenship law from the start. To do that, if we begin with a virgin page, we still go back to people born here and people who are descended from people born here. Taking that as the basic test, we can move to a non-racial citizenship law. Of course, then we have to add people who were adopted and people who were naturalised, and that is included in any sensible concept.
Then we find that we have inherited the heritage from 1948 onwards of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who do not fall into that category—the only sensible definition of a British citizen. That is the most emotional and deeply moral problem that we have to face in the Bill.
It is easy for the people who live in the dependent territories. We can say that they should be citizens of individual colonies. I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South, and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that that is the course that we should take, and it would be much easier to answer the objections of Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong if we had done that. They would not be in any worse position internationally if we had done that. The very fact that there is a different immigration impact between those territories means, in effect, that we shall do that. Therefore, we ought to say that we shall do that, and I hope that in Committee we shall do it.
That leaves the central moral problem which I have approached with anguish ever since I began to think about it as the chairman of a working party on the subject in the Labour Government of 1974–76. What do we do about the person who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, who lives in a Commonwealth country and who is not able to take the citizenship of the country in which he lives?
We know this problem of old. That was the position of the East African Asians. Most of their problems have been met, because we have allowed them to come here under the voucher scheme. But there are still between 20,000 and 25,000 waiting for vouchers in India who ought to have been allowed in a long time ago, because the voucher scheme in East Africa has exhausted all the other commitment. However, we have not allowed them in, and they are there. If we gave them British citizenship, they could come immediately. I should not regard that as wrong. We have given them a commitment that they can come, anyway, and I think that we should clear that commitment.
If that was all that it was, we could deal with the problem by giving them all British citizenship. But it is not all. There are people living in Malaysia and Singapore, amounting in all to about 150,000. Those are really the main group of people left in this category. Do we give them British citizenship, even though they do not realise that they are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and may have no desire to come, but may want to come at some stage? Do we take the immigration potential of them?
It is a brave act of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook to say that we will. Morally, I agree with him. In practice, it may be difficult if we have to meet this commitment, especially if we have to meet it, as we did with the East African Asians, within a very limited period of time.
I am convinced that in the Bill we should not make the mistakes that we made in 1948 and 1968, by giving assurances to people and then ratting on them when they come to be collected. If we are to say that we give them British citizenship, we give it to them in the full understanding that, when they want to come, we let them come.
After a full debate in the House, openly understood, I am willing to come to that conclusion, and I support my right hon. Friend in that view. It is a brave act, but it may be that that is not the right way. The way that I took when I was responsible for these matters and presented the working party report to my Government was to say that such people should continue to be in a separate class. I classed them with all the others in British overseas citizenship. This Government took out the colonies from that concept.
But there are other ways. We could do what we should have done in 1948 and at every stage since when we have decolonised a territory. We should say to the colony that all the people who live in its territory will be its citizens. We still do not do that. I complained last year when we gave independence to the Solomon Islands that we still allowed them to say that they would not take these people and that we had to keep them as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. We should never have allowed that in the first place. The reason why British subjects without citizenship exist is that we made the same mistake about India and Pakistan and told them that in due course they would have to take on responsibility for such people, and they never did. That is why they continue to exist in the Bill.
We must clear up this mess now, if we can. Therefore, we should convene either a Commonwealth conference or, as in 1948, a conference of experts to see whether there is a way in which such people can take citizenship in the countries concerned—mainly Malaysia and Singapore. If, at the end of that, they cannot take citizenship, and they have no other citizenship, perhaps the right course is to give them British citizenship. British overseas citizenship has no rights at all. British overseas citizens do not enter this country. They have not been able to do so since 1968. If they have rights to enter Malaysia, it is only under Malaysian law. Some of them might be citizens of Malaysia or eligible to take citizenship of Malaysia. In that event, we would have to take much fewer than the 150,000 that I indicated. Whichever it is, we have to settle this matter properly in this debate.
Having said that, and having nearly exhausted my 12 minutes, I can touch only momentarily on some of the central inequities of the Bill. Although the Government are right to say that in many ways the Bill follows the Green Paper, it is a long way from the central assumptions of the Green Paper in two major respects. It is even further away from the working party report for which I was responsible and on which the Green Paper was based in part. Anyone who had to read the working party report, which was never published, would see that there are marked differences and that one of the central differences between the Green Paper and the Bill concerns what happens to children born to British citizens.
In 1948, Hartley Shawcross, when commending the 1948 Bill to the House, said that the incidence of citizenship must be common to all citizens:
they devolve on all ciLizens, kind or colour apart. That is the basic principle as I have always understood it, on which our Colonial Empire has been built up and no question of race or colour enters into it. That is fundamental."—[Official Report, 7 July 1948: Vol. 453, c. 503–4.]
Under the Bill, if a citizen of this country goes abroad and has a child abroad, the outcome will depend upon whether that person was a citizen by birth of this country or a citizen who acquired citizenship in some other way. That cannot be correct, because it means that not all citizens have the same rights. Some do not have the right to pass their citizenship to a child born abroad, and since, as I say, the practical effect of that would be racialist, I believe it to be even doubly regrettable.
The other matter to which I turn is perhaps not a racialist factor, but it introduces a distinction. I intervened during the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South on this point. As I said, someone can have citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies if he or she was born here. Under the Bill one can acquire British citizenship only if one was born here of a person who was born here or was born here of somebody who was settled here.
In my time, "settled" had a fairly clear meaning. It meant that the person had the conditions removed from his passport. He could produce his passport and that would be the end of it. But since then the courts have intervened to undermine the certainty of that concept. People may now be hauled before an immigration officer and be taken off to prison if it is thought that in some way they achieved their status by what is called deceit or misrepresentation, which may be no more than the fact that somebody came in at London airport and did not volunteer information to an immigration officer who never asked the question.
Thus, a person may have acquired his settlement after five years, after that he may have achieved his citizenship, but then, after that, someone may come along and undermine the whole of his citizenship. The question whether someone is settled in this country is now very complex.
As a matter of practice, how will that concept be administered? If a woman gets a certificate from the doctor that she has just had a baby and she goes along to the registrar, the registrar will not decide the question. He will send it to the Home Office to find out. The Home Office will say whether such people are settled here before citizenship can be granted.
In those circumstances, every black woman in this country who has a baby will bring her status before the authorities every time she has a child. But a white woman will probably not be in that position. It is indefensible that that should be so. It will fundamentally undermine the stability of race relations in this country, and we cannot allow it to happen.
The third major grievance against the Bill relates to marriage. I shall not go into that because it has already been covered. It turns upon the Government's trying to change the immigration law and therefore bringing in this citizenship law in order to meet their changes in the immigration rules. In this respect, they cannot deny that they have tried to make citizenship law equivalent to immigration control.
I come now to the fourth objection, on which I wish to spend a minute or two. I agree that we ought to fuse naturalisation and registration. Registration was for Commonwealth citizens. Naturalisation was for aliens. In practice now there is very little difference. Since 1973 the rules have been the same. Therefore, we might as well call them the same.
However, if we are to go to a new full-blooded naturalisation law, it ought to be one that is easily understood, is capable of being seen to be fair and is open to a system of appeal if bureaucracy is seen to be oppressive. This cannot be done with a good character test. Of course, the Home Secretary hides behind saying that this is a difficult problem because it may involve questions of security. I accept that, but most of the time it does not. I dealt with these cases regularly, and I was astonished at what was regarded as a breach of the good character test.
Someone may think that he is a person of good character, but he may not be a person of good character in he eyes of a civil servant at the Home Office, and that is the deciding test. There is no other. The decision can be overruled by the Minister if it reaches his desk, but that is all. Someone would be a citizen of good character if he paid his taxes. If on the other hand, he was behind in paying his taxes—if, for example, he had not put in his tax return for a few years and there was some difficulty in finding out his tax position—he would not be regarded as a citizen of good character. If it were rumoured in the neighbourhood that someone did not pay his debts, the police got wind of the rumour, and the rumour was passed on to the policeman who was investigating his claim to citizenship, he would not get citizenship because he would not be a person of good character.
I do not want to give hon. Members on the Government Benches any more ammunition, but I remember one case that showed the ludicrous nature of the system. A man had been selling copies of Socialist Worker outside his place of work. He was thought to contribute to the funds of that periodical under an assumed name, so he was asked, when he was seen, whether he was a member of a political party. He said that he was not. So the intention was to refuse him on the basis that he told a lie. I refused to accept that nonsense, but the Home Secretary of the day insisted that we went back to the man again, and he still said that he was not a member of a political party. So he did not get citizenship.
That is absurd. The subjective evaluations in all that inquiry are things that decent honourable citizens might differ about. We cannot have a citizenship law that is as subjective as that. Therefore, the only test must be a bad character test, with the conditions set out in the Act. Someone cannot become a citizen if, for example, he has been convicted of an offence which carries a sentence of imprisonment of more than a certain number of years. Someone cannot become a citizen if he has been declared bankrupt and has not had that lifted, and so on. But those conditions would be there in the Act, and if somebody was denied citizenship he could say that they did not apply to him, he wanted to appeal, and he could go to appeal.
I agree with what the Government say, both now and in the Green Paper—that we cannot have a system of appeal based on a good character test, because a good character test is so subjective that no one would know on what basis one ought to overrule the Home Secretary. Therefore, if we want a system of appeal, it depends on bringing in a bad character test.
I cannot deal with all the other points, but I hope that we shall discuss them exhaustively in Committee, because there are many detailed parts of the Bill that were never in the Labour Government's Green Paper—and which are fundamentally bad in a nationality system.
What is certain is that we cannot chop and change on these matters very often. We cannot have Nationality Bills as we have Industrial Relations Bills and the rest, where one Government do one thing and the next Government do another. On nationality and citizenship, we must have common consent on both sides so that the law will stand for a long time. People's status throughout the world will depend upon it. Therefore, if we are to do it, we must do it now, and what we do must carry the conviction of the great majority of us before the Bill is passed.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) made a sensible and constructive speech. I did not agree with the whole of it, but it contrasted strongly with the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), which I thought appalling. It was a mixture of half-truths and insults, and it bodes ill for the sensible discussion of this subject which I hope will be entered upon in Committee.
The same indifference to the truth as was revealed by the right hon. Gentleman's speech has been displayed elsewhere, including, most surprisingly, by certain Church leaders. It is no wonder that the professional church is increasingly becoming separated from the British people.
It may well be that the Bill follows the concept of patriality which was laid down in the Immigration Act 1971. But that was 10 years ago. If it was so offensive a concept then, why did not the Labour Government seek to alter it when they came to power? Why did the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility not press for its repeal when it had its own friends in power?
The truth is that the present immigration laws, which we all agree are complicated by an obsolete nationality law, were evolved after years of public agonising, discussion and adjustments to meet our particular circumstances. Hon. Members of both parties have worked hard to find a fair solution to this most difficult problem. This Bill is part of that same progress. For it to be castigated and abused by those who should know better is the purest humbug.
The very idea of nationality implies exclusion of all those not entitled to it. Every nation State is entitled to determine its citizens and to exclude those with no hereditary or territorial connection with it, if it so chooses. To say, with reference to a country that is inhabited predominately by people of one race, that this nationality law is racially discriminatory is to state the obvious. It is a truism, not an insult. It is the practice of every country in the world to prefer the interests of its citizens to those of outsiders. That is perfectly natural.
The mischief that the Bill attempts to overcome has been referred to by previous speakers. That mischief arises from the mistaken view that the Labour Government adopted in 1947 as to the nature of the Commonwealth and the way in which it would develop. They thought—and we all hoped—that the new Commonwealth would want to continue in allegiance to the British Crown. The duty of allegiance should be inherent in the notion of nationality. Therefore, we proclaimed that every Commonwealth citizen was a British subject. The idea was stillborn. Foolishly, and to our immense cost we have gone on pretending that it is reality. We have no duty—moral or legal—to the inhabitants of those countries that were formerly in the British Empire, and which threw off our sovereignty and repudiated their allegiance to the Queen. It was their choice. They were entitled to do so.
By their assumption of independence, those countries conferred independence on us. Let them—the Irish Republic, Pakistan, India and some of the West Indies—look after their own people and allow us to look after ours. That is not to say that I approve of everything in the Bill. Like so many other attempts to solve a difficult problem, this attempt is in many respects a compromise, which shirks the right answer.
My main criticism of the Bill is that it dilutes our sense of national identity by drawing the limits of nationality too widely, and by abandoning the concept of allegiance to the Crown as the proper basis of nationality. I refer particularly to dual citizenship. Everyone agrees that that is undesirable. It complicates nationality law. It causes
friction between nations, it is condemned by the 1963 convention on the reduction of cases of multiple nationality. Paragraph 85 of the White Paper states:
Most other countries nowadays place restrictions on the holding of dual nationality, and in particular withdraw their citizenship from people who by their voluntary act obtain that of another country".
It erodes the sense of allegiance to a common sovereign. It enables people to travel on two passports and, thereby, to evade immigration controls. Its retention by Britain will perpetuate many of the problems that this Bill attempts to solve.
The only argument in favour of dual nationality occurs in paragraph 89 of the White Paper. Most people would disagree with that argument. The White Paper refers to the decision to allow people here to retain their British citizenship even if they have citizenship of another State. The last sentence of that paragraph states:
If the retention of that citizenship on becoming a British Citizen will assist them in the process of settling down in this country then the Government would see this as a good reason for our not requiring them to renounce it".
I should have thought that most people would agree that the very retention of another citizenship would make it more difficult for a person to settle down in Britain. The retention of the whole basis of dual allegiance leaves millions of people round the world, who have no real connection with Britain, with the status of British overseas citizens.
Paragraph 25 of the White Paper points out that about 1½ million people are potential British overseas citizens. Most of them are in Malaysia. The White Paper adds:
most of them also have Malaysian Citizenship.
That means that we are deliberately conferring on about 1½ million people a citizenship that they do not need, because they already have their own.
As many rights and duties—including the laws of treason and extradition—depend on national status, we should be foolish to confer British citizenship on those who already have the citizenship of another State. Therefore, I disapprove of the Bill's failure to deal with the citizens of the Irish Republic, who can claim to remain British subjects under section 2 of the British Nationality Act 1948. I do not refer to the right of citizens of the Irish Republic to vote in our elections, but to the 144,404—that is the figure that the Minister gave me in a letter that he sent to me on 11 September 1980—who are now also British subjects, and who have, or are entitled to, United Kingdom passports.
In so far as those people have settled in the United Kingdom, I have no other complaint than that they should be British citizens owing allegiance only to the Queen. I understand that they are eligible for citizenship already. Therefore, there is no excuse for increasing the class of British subjects without citizenship. More importantly, there is no reason to continue to give British subject status to the eligible citizens of the Irish Republic who have not applied for it under section 2. If they have not bothered to apply during the past 30 years, why confer a right on them that they do not want? We should give them two years in which to apply and then bring that extraordinary privilege to an end.
I have other reservations about the Bill, but some of them have already been mentioned. However, there is one aspect of the immigration problem that impinges on nationality. The British public is being kept completely ignorant of it. I refer to the thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of dependants of immigrants settled here, who are still on the Indian sub-continent, but who have the right to come here and to settle and, in turn, to acquire British citizenship. The Government have a manifesto commitment to set up a register of such people, and ultimately, to impose a quota on admissions. They have not yet done so. We should at least know the size of the problem if such a register were to exist. It is unfair to the British people that they should not know how many other people are entitled to take up not only residence, but British nationality. It is not fair on the British people that they should be left in the dark.
Those are my main reservations about the Bill. However, of the need for it in the interests of the poor, much abused and much imposed upon British majority on these islands, there can be no doubt.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on the spirited nature of his observations. I welcome the remarks of the Home Secretary. He referred to the examination of the Bill in Committee, and it seems that there is an open door to possible change. I have taken a consistent line in participating in debates on race relations, immigration and nationality over the years, and I hope that these issues will become non-party political and that the football will cease to be party political.
That was my objective in working for agreement in the Select Committee's report. The Select Committee was composed of five Conservative Members and five Labour Members. It puzzles me that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—whom we all respect because of his experience as a predecessor of the present Minister of State—disowns the 29 recommendations of the Select Committee and says that they are not based upon evidence. I am especially surprised that as a lawyer he said that the evidence did not match the recommendations when, in fact, the evidence had not been printed.
I am glad that many of my hon. Friends refused to reject the views of those of us who have worked hard and visited the Indian sub-continent, which I have done several times. I went there to examine the pros and cons with the British posts overseas. Many of the sensible recommendations contained in the Select Committee's report have emerged in the remarks of my hon. Friend the. Member for York and by others who have contributed to the debate.
One of the recommendations was that all East African citizens with British passports who are still overseas should be admitted immediately to the United Kingdom, should they wish to come, with their dependant relatives without any messing about. It was, of course, a Tory Colonial Secretary who gave an option to the inhabitants of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. That was done with an eye on the white population in those countries, the minority population. The option was given with a view to enabling that population to retain its British citizenship.
It is no good crying over spilt milk now. Nor is it much good crying over the results of the British Nationality Act 1948, which I described as a starry-eyed concept in one of my books. That was the attitude of the leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, in 1961–62. He had to make the choice between the EEC and the Commonwealth. He decided to retain the Commonwealth connection.
Of course, the attitude and outlook in 1948 was substantially different from those that now obtain. The possibility of individuals travelling around the world was far less in 1948. That possibility was restricted to a few seamen who, for example, had absconded from their ships. There was no notion of quite ordinary people being able to travel across the world.
The intake of workers from the Indian sub-continent stems from a shortage of labour, and our assessment must be based on that. We must take that view if we are to obtain and sustain racial harmony throughout our deliberations in Committee and into the future for our children, whether they are black, white, brown or yellow.
The trade union movement, which is the underpin of the Labour movement, has a sensible and cohesive attitude to these matters. The TUC is notoriously an old cart horse and very slow off the mark in proclaiming itself. I was a product of the trade union movement before I came to this place. I was the TUCs London regional education officer. I know the spirit of the trade union movement. It stands for fair play and equal treatment among workers.
That is why the TUC and my union in particular, the Transport and General Workers Union, have been generally opposed to the admission of work-permit labour, which is fettered labour. It is at the mercy of employers on a year-on-year basis. I am glad to see that that form of labour is on its way out. The year-on-year system destroys the possibility of such workers exercising their rights as workers.
The Labour Movement has never been in favour of an open door into Britain. However, it is in favour of equal treatment for the rights of workers once they are here, and for family rights. That has been firmly in my mind throughout the years that I have had to deal with the questions and problems of immigration throughout the country, and especially in my constituency.
The different nationalities become used to one another. In places such as Southall and beyond, there is now a great deal of understanding. It can be said that those who live in such districts are all experts on racial harmony. There has been some magnificent leadership in such areas which has disowned pressures for repatriation, in which neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party believes. Both parties have expressly disowned the concept, unlike the utterances of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who thinks that by some pressure, or by the offer of money, we can drive all the black people back to their lands of origin or to somewhere other than these islands.
Life is not as simple as that. We now have third-generation black people. We have the babies of the babies. They belong here. They know no other country. In this context, I appreciate the strong remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for York, who has put his finger on the nub of the argument. He has argued that we must extract from the Government a change of front. We have every chance of getting it. My hon. Friend has addressed his mind to that possibility.
The bishops and the leaders of the churches have expressed severe criticism of the Bill. That being so, we may be able to make some headway even in another place.
I deplore the Government's decision to adhere to the normal procedure for consideration of the Bill. The Bill is a major contitutional measure and it warrants special treatment. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments that were advanced on an earlier occasion. I said to the Leader of the House that the Bill is an obvious candidate for the new procedure, which involves a Standing Committee taking evidence. It could have taken evidence from ethnic minorities, the Trades Union Congress and employers' organisations on how they regarded the Bill and saw the future.
As the Home Secretary has reappeared on the Government Front Bench, I shall repeat what I have just said in the sense that I hope that these matters can blossom into non-party issues in Committee. None of us has a stake in racial disharmony. I always applauded the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) for the way in which he faced the emergency of the Uganda exodus and the manner in which he dealt with the right hon. Member for Down, South. The right hon. Member for Sidcup acted without hesitation when the right hon. Member for Down, South stepped out of line by making inflammatory speeches outside the House and putting a match, so to speak, to the bonfire. He made that choice. I cannot forget that he said there were kids spitting on each other in Wolverhampton. The Select Committee visited that area at the time.
I cannot understand why the bulk of Conservative Members voted for the Prime Minister's earlier changes in the immigration rules on the quality of spouses and other matters. We were informed by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) that if 50 Conservative Members had followed their consciences and voted with the Opposition, that measure would not have been carried that night. Because the hon. Member owed personal allegiance to the Home Secretary, the measure was carried. But it unnecessarily worsened the situation. If the Bill is not changed considerably, the situation will be worsened still further. I regard that as entirely unnecessary.
I am puzzled that a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Membei for Basildon (Mr. Proctor), seemed to be alarmed about the number of Asian children being born in this country. Who is afraid of babies? Those babies belong here. They will be an asset and a credit to Britain, especially if they have the benefit of the customs of an Asian family unit. My Asian constituents are a credit to Britain they work hard and are an asset to Britain's economy.
However, I cannot understand the present role of the Commission for Racial Equality. The present chairman is a former Conservative Member. I believe that the Minister is on good terms with him. I have seen them together and they do not seem to row with one another. The Home Secretary is responsible for the selection of members of the CRE. No one elects its members. There is a racial balance among its members, but it is not a permanent entity. I do not know why the Government go on with this situation.
The 1976 Act established the Commission for Racial Equality. I do not want it to be a permanent fixture. I want new blood to be brought in. But the Government have recently reappointed the present chairman. The CRE's submission contains the same attitude as that of the bishops, the churches and those who are closest to the ethnic communities. I hope that lessons will have been learnt from the past and that something better will come from it.
The Race Relations act 1976 became almost a nonparty affair. In Committee, there was cross-party voting on the material aspects of the measure. I hope that such unity will be shown in Committee on this Bill so that we can make fundamental changes, especially by protecting the interests of children born in this country and their patrial rights. In fact, we should get rid of patrial rights. We should also attempt to change the two or three-generation ancestral provision affecting the whites of Rhodesia and of South Africa. As long as that provision exists, it raises the racial characteristics in the Bill and in turn, the racial characteristics of the Immigration Act 1971 on which the Bill fundamentally leans.
I agree with what a number of Labour Members have said about the Bill being connected with immigration. It must be. It has been found necessary to bring it forward as a result of 25 years of mass immigration into these islands. We must remember that about 3 million people are now living here who have come here in a generation. Those numbers were quite inconceivable at the end of the war.
In 1970, on the return of a Conservative Government, people expected an end to this process. But, as we all know, the flow of immigrants continued and now there must be about 500,000 extra people who have come here since 1970. In the future, historians will note that as one of the most significant facts of our time, certainly more important than our economic decline, for immigration is steadily changing the character and identity of the nation.
Clearly, the intention behind the Bill is that the United Kingdom should be a permanent multi-racial society, even though that is a fact only in certain areas of the country where there is a high concentration of immigrants. In millions of acres of our countryside, there are no immigrants. But where immigration has occurred, the immigrant penetration is against the clear wishes of the indigenous population. The ordinary Englishman still clings obstinately to his Englishness and to the old, known ways. He knows only too well that if immigration continues at the present rate the indigenous population will in time be supplanted by aliens and British people will gradually disappear from these islands. It has already started to happen in certain areas.
I regard the Bill as a poor and feeble effort against that background. We must never forget that the ordinary people look to us to safeguard their interests and those of their children. There are, unfortunately, disquieting signs which the Bill does little if anything to alleviate. The Home Office seems terrified of pressure from the immigrant lobbies. Worse still, we know that the police hesitate to enforce the law against immigrants in the way that they would against English people. Even the press is circumspect in what it publishes about immigrants, and in the House immigration is rarely debated.
What is the object of those who so passionately wish to change this old society to a multi-racial society? That aim is certainly not stated in the Bill. Is it because those people want a world revolution and so to weaken us that we become incapable of defending ourselves, or even of knowing what sort of nation we are composed of? Or is it a bogus and unthinking sentimentality that believes that all races should come to this overcrowded island to settle here?
It is true that there are still vestiges of the older order in the Bill. There is still the oath of allegiance. But that oath would be difficult to keep with those who had dual nationality if there were a conflict between the United Kingdom and the immigrant's country of origin, to which he still looks and will continue to look for many generations.
The Bill seems to suppose that all or a large part of the human race is much the same in thoughts, habits, customs, religious beliefs and ideals as those who have lived here for centuries and have shaped their destiny on the world's stage. I do not believe that people are digits or are all the same to be dealt with in this way.
That great English Jew, Disraeli, said that race was everything, and he was right. But race and racial origin are not mentioned in the Bill, and John Bull becomes a very shadowy figure indeed.
Those of us who wish that this Bill were much stronger in defence of the nation's vital interests will not look to the intellectuals, nor to the media, and certainly not to the churches, for help—particularly not the churches, because they have failed or given up the idea of trying to convert the heathen immigrant to Christianity.
I believe that we have to look beyond these walls. We must look, first, to our colleagues in the other place who seem to have a clearer idea of how ordinary people think and feel than we sometimes have. But, above all, we must look to those millions of English men and women throughout the land—some of whom will be listening to this debate on the wireless tonight or reading about it in the papers tomorrow if it is reported—who look to us as their trustees to safeguard the essential identity of the nation and to preserve its future.
I find some difficulty in following the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). I am aware that the Bill could be said to be the product of promises made to the electorate in May 1979 regarding immigration, and to that extent I suppose that some of the hon. Gentleman's observations were relevant to the Bill.
The speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) disturbed me somewhat. He referred at the outset to national identity. If national identity is what took us across the world to subjugate the peoples of India, Africa and the West Indies to obtain raw materials and to exploit the labour in those countries, I want little or nothing to do with it. But it is clear that that is what it means to some representatives of the Conservative Party.
I do not believe that it is possible to argue about the debris of the past—a term used by the right hon. Member for Down, South—which includes a drive for conquest in the last century and then turn round in this century and seek to ignore the consequences of our activities. It is morally and politically indefensible to ignore the view that we can never repay the debt that we owe to the countries that we have exploited in terms of raw materials and labour. We are certainly not accepting our responsibilities with legislation such as this.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge referred to the Churches. It is sometimes claimed from the Government Front Bench that this is a Christian country. There is nothing in our approach to the problems of immigration and nationality that could in any way be acceptable to the Carpenter of Nazareth. If Conservative Members seek so to argue, they will merely illustrate that they use Christianity as a cloak for different types of activities.
Some of the consequences of British imperialism are in the Bill. In Preston there are people from the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and Africa. Some are waiting for their dependants to be allowed to enter this country. Others are waiting for wives to be allowed to enter this country. Many face the problem of the nationality of their children and relationships within the extended families of Asians, but the Bill is put before us and them in a way that can only create increasing insecurity. We need to reassure them about their future in a multiracial society. Instead, we are clearly indicating that they will have to overcome many obstacles during the next few years before they can claim a permanent home in the United Kingdom.
The Immigration Act 1971 underpinned the racialism pursued by the Conservative Party. I am afraid that the 1977 Green Paper was in many ways a racist document. Indeed, it is now being used to buttress the policy enunciated in the Bill.
I shall put my comments on the contents of the Bill in the form of questions, to which I hope the Minister of State will be able to give answers. The hon. Gentleman will certainly have similar questions put to him tomorrow night when he visits the Preston community relations office if he is unable to give satisfactory answers tonight.
It is suggested that there are about 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000 dependants—the Minister can indicate which is the correct figure—waiting to enter the United Kingdom from the Indian sub-continent. The question that he should answer in the interests of the relatives of those dependants is: will the Bill in any way render void their applications for entry to the United Kingdom?
I understand that Commonwealth citizens settled here before 1973 will lose their right to register as British citizens, unless they register within two years, and will have to seek naturalisation. We have already heard arguments about the meaning of "good character". My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) did us a service by illustrating some of the problems involved in that kind of approach.
The Bill refers to a good knowledge of the English language. Many Asian women have difficulty in this respect. The Government are to some degree responsible for that problem, because public expenditure cuts make it virtually impossible to set up institutions to teach English to our ethnic minorities.
One shudders to think what is meant by a decision to refuse nationality on grounds of inadequate knowledge of the language or not being of good character.
I imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and one or two other hon. Members, including myself, do not come into the category of those with a good character. From what has been stated in the past, it seems that our character might be seriously questioned, particularly in view of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for York. Are we to have a series of investigative harassments of the black people in Britain? That seems highly likely under the terms of the Bill. I am particularly concerned about the married Asian woman with language difficulties who seeks to register as a British citizen.
The Immigration Act 1971 is a piece of shabby racist legislation. The basis for the present Bill can be similarly described. The community organisations throughout
Britain, with few exceptions, have condemned the Bill. The Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have condemned the Bill. They see national identity in terms of a multiracial society. They are opposed to discriminatory racist laws. I shall quote one of their statements. It says:
The Bill ignores principles on which a moral consensus might be based".
Because of that, they rightly warn that there could be a reaction to the Bill if it became an Act. Many young people with black skins in Britain today will face a more questioning attitude to their status by the police. What will be their reaction? The Bill is in many ways a recipe for increased racial conflict. The Government will have to take full responsibility for the consequences that may emerge from it.
Labour, when in office, must ensure that citizenship is based on equal rights and duties for all holders. If we want to clarify the concept of nationality, we could well look closely at what was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for York. I do not always agree with my hon. Friend's approach to this question, but he seemed to be saying certain things that at least represent a basis for a serious examination of this problem, free of the racial overtones that fill too many of the lines of the Bill.
I welcome the remark of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) that the debate should be essentially bipartisan. If any subject merits a bipartisan approach, it is that of nationality law. We are, after all, members of the same country. Our approach to the Bill should therefore be as objective as possible. The contributions of the hon. Members for Ealing, Southall and for York (Mr. Lyon) were particularly constructive, in marked distinction to the contribution of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) who, I think, felt impelled to adopt a blustery and partisan tone, perhaps because he thought that there were votes in the issue. The right hon. Gentleman displayed a marked lack of knowledge of the detail of this important measure.
The Bill should be inspired by three basic principles. The first principle, which I put first on purpose, is that the Bill should enhance the sense of community in our society. It is over-optimistic to imagine that we can become, overnight, one happy family. That is too much to ask. The process of pursuing good race relations is something that we shall have to keep at long and hard for many years, if not for a number of generations, to come. After the Bill becomes law, it should be possible to say that most of us, resident in this country, share a common legal identity and status. The Bill should minimise the distinction between fellow residents in this country.
Secondly, because the Bill will enhance a sense of belonging in this country, it will give, I hope, a more evidently fair rationale for the process of immigration control. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department expressed this well when he said that the hope behind the Bill was that citizenship and the right of abode ought, as a result, to be related. Inasmuch as the concept of patriality, defined in the 1971 Act, is to be subsumed in schedule 4 to the Bill by the principle of citizenship, that will be so.
The third principle should be that the Bill will simplify our over-complex citizenship and nationality laws. Regrettably, at this stage at any rate, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) stated, it is something of a rag-bag Bill. There are six categories of citizenship in the measure—United Kingdom citizens, citizens of overseas territories, citizens of dependent territories, British subjects, British protected persons and Commonwealth citizens. I doubt whether all those categories will be retained in the Bill when it comes out of Committee.
The arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir C. Fletcher-Cooke) were cogent in supporting the view put forward by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook that we should have individual citizenships of the residual dependent territories. For reasons of local immigration control and for reasons of deportation and so on, this would make more sense. It is possible that this is how the Bill will emerge from Committee.
Although it would not be practical to legislate on the question of civic rights, it is, nevertheless, incumbent on the Government, I believe, to issue some statement of how they envisage citizenship's according with the question of duties and rights. For many years I have wearied the House with contributions on such measures as the Kiribati Bill, and the Tuvalu Bill, and the Zimbabwe Bill in this Parliament, as well as the Pakistan Bill in 1973. I have argued that the idea of British subjecthood, based upon the notion of Commonwealth citizenship, to which the hon. Member for York so eloquently referred, is totally outdated. In fact, it is retained in the Bill. In clause 34, for example, British citizens, citizens of British dependent territories and British overseas citizens are all regarded as Commonwealth citizens.
Of course, we do not want people to be resident in this country, pay taxes and national insurance contributions, and wholeheartedly to contribute to the life of a community, without being able to enjoy reciprocal privileges such as the right to vote in elections, to serve on the Bench, to be members of the Armed Forces and the Civil Service, and to take part in jury service.
However, the present situation does not make good logic or common sense. Why is an EEC national who lives in Britain and is entitled to live and work here under the Treaty of Rome, not enfranchised for EEC Assembly elections, whereas a Commonwealth citizen, even after the Bill becomes law, will still be able to do so? There is a host of anomalies. Even after the Bill is enacted, we shall have to address ourselves to this problem.
A related issue is the fact that we are giving Commonwealth citizens two years in which to register as United Kingdom nationals under the existing procedures for Commonwealth citizens. In the Pakistan legislation, a similar period of time was allowed for between 100,000 and 200,000 Pakistan nationals who could have lost their civic rights, as the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) pointed out, if they did not register as United Kingdom nationals within the stipulated time.
I appreciate that there will be no compulsion on Commonwealth citizens to register. They will not lose any rights if they do not. Perhaps that is a good thing. None the less, many of them may choose to do so, and as there are a lot of people in this category it will involve a great deal of work for the Home Office. When South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth several years were allowed for South Africans to regularise their position and register as United Kingdom citizens. The Pakistanis had about two years. So I think we could have been more generous in that regard.
I turn to the status of children born abroad. The issue is raised in clause 2. Many hon. Members have referred to that provision. First, I cannot conceive, in all equity, why a distinction should be drawn on the grounds of birth between bona fide British citizens. If British citizenship is acquired by naturalisation or registration presumably the people involved think they belong in the United Kingdom and believe that this is the country to which they owe allegiance. Otherwise, they would not have taken the overt step of naturalisation or registration. Moreover, it is a prima facie injustice to draw that distinction.
Secondly, as I said earlier, there is no good reason why Commonwealth citizens settled in Britain with no limitations on right of abode here should acquire British nationality, but find that their children, if born when they go abroad, are in a different situation. In my view, that is not entirely desirable. After all, those children belong here and will continue to belong here. It is their parents' home and they know no other.
Then there is the category of the children born abroad of refugees to this country. It is possibly a more important category than one would imagine. After the Second World War, many thousands of refugees came to the United Kingdom from the Baltic States, the Ukraine and Poland. In 1956, there was the influx from Hungary. Many of those people have retained their nationality. They have not acquired British citizenship, because they hope that their countries of origin will return to a democratic rule and that they will be able to go back to those countries at some time in the future. If the provisions remain the same, I envisage that the children of such people, if they happen to be born when they were abroad, would not automatically, acquire British citizenship, which would be wrong. Those children would have known no other origin than an essentially British one, inasmuch as Britain was the ultimate home and refuge of their parents.
There is then the purely practical argument of the straightforward anomalies that will occur—the British person who works in an American university for a number of years and has to get his child registered as a United Kingdom citizen by dispensation of the Home Office. I do not see why that need occur. It is unnecessarily complicated. I hope that the matter will be carefully reconsidered.
There is then the vast issue of the United Kingdom and Colony passport holders overseas, which is in a sense looked after by the provision of British overseas citizenship. I am anxious about the status of United Kingdom and Colony passport holders overseas who will acquire British overseas citizenship inasmuch as the citizenship of their children is not defined under the legislation. The arguments of the hon. Member for York were right in that regard. At the first Commonwealth conference we should together work out our joint attitude; otherwise there is a danger of people in that category, and I mean the children, becoming stateless, which I am sure is not the intention of the Bill.
The question of dual nationality has briefly been raised. I am chairman of the Anglo-Asian Conservative Society. A number of members of that society believe that we should do away with dual nationality, which may appear surprising. Pakistanis, for example, can have dual nationality, following Pakistan's withdrawal from the Commonwealth. Mr. Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, specifically gave Pakistan nationals dual nationality if they wanted it in order that they could retain civic privileges in Britain without losing their rights in Pakistan.
We should once and for all try at the earliest opportunity to do away with the manifest anomalies and injustices that exist at an individual level. I conclude with a case from my constituency, which my hon. Friend has kindly and expeditiously undertaken to deal with. It concerns a 25-year-old woman whose father was Indian and whose mother was Burmese. She was born in Rangoon. The family settled in the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s. In essence, the United Kingdom for many a long year has been her home. She works for the Inland Revenue, and therefore has to be a British citizen or a Commonwealth citizen—a British subject—in order to continue in that occupation. She has been warned that unless she acquires that citizenship she risks losing her job. To their credit, her employers, after interventions, have said that they will not sack her while her status is being resolved. It is ludicrous and anomalous that a Burmese person should have to go to the special trouble that, let us say, a Bangladeshi person, living next door in the Commonwealth, does not have to go to. In this case, the Burmese person speaks perfect English, is good at her job and is of good character.
Finally, we must consider the rights of Commonwealth citizens. I want everyone in this country to feel that they belong here and to have the incentive to acquire British nationality. I hope that that is the intention behind the Bill. I do not believe that the rationalisation of the registration and naturalisation process is inimical to that. It is logical and sensible. The members of my society welcome the move. The Government are undertaking a difficult task. They deserve the support of both sides of the House. If they have that, they can produce a statute that will stand the test of time and not appear to be an anachronism, as did the 1948 Act after only a relatively short period.
The one point of general agreement this evening seems to be that there is a need for a new nationality act. There is near-agreement that there are defects—and some major defects—in the Bill.
The 1948 Act was overtaken by colonial freedom and by our structures of immigration law. The Bill is wrong because it is built on the foundations of the various parts of immigration law that have developed over the years. Therefore, there is not the intelligible structure that a Bill needs if it is to define basic principles.
In introducing the Bill the Home Secretary said that he did not understand why there were objections to it. The major problem is that the Government do not understand people's concern about policies on immigration and the interpretation put on the Bill.
There is much cause for people to worry about the Government's intentions when they introduce what appear to be unnecessary and deliberately offensive restrictions, as in the Bill. One might expect one objective of the Bill to be to simplify a complicated situation, but it seems that the Government have deliberately constructed their own complications.
There is an example of that in clause 1, which removes the existing standard by which anyone born here becomes a British citizen. I do not object to the principle of that. In many cases, people whose children are born here while they are not settled here have no intention of using that citizenship for their children. My worry is about the implication of implementing the clause.
How will registrars establish the rights of parents wishing to register a child? Could registration of a birth be challenged years later on the ground that a parent has failed to give information, either at registration or at the time of entry? I fear that there will be a reaction from people who are legally settled here, but who feel worried that they might be interrogated or distrusted and therefore might not use the maternity services or register their child. The White Paper refers to the difficulties resulting from the clause and I am far from sure that they can be overcome.
I am disturbed at the distinction between the rights of British citizens by birth and those by registration or naturalization—particularly, for example, in the nationality of their children if born abroad. Someone who has gone to the trouble of registering his nationality or becoming naturalised shows a commitment to this country which people who are merely born here do not show. Such people have chosen to throw in their lot with the United Kingdom and therefore deserve rights that are at least equal to those of people who were born here.
A particular problem will arise from the custom of Asian women to return to parental homes to have a baby. The children of some Asian women who want to return to the sub-continent for the birth of their child could be placed in difficulty.
As my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, our proposals for naturalisation need to be improved, particularly because of the reduction in the role of registration. There should be clear reasons for refusal and a move away from subjective judgments of good character and the reliance on the discretion of the Home Secretary. There should also be a right of appeal. That and the setting of objective standards go together, because there would be difficulty in challenging in the courts an open definition of something like good character.
I find no reason for stopping the right of registration for Commonwealth citizens who have been here since before 1973. I do not see why it should not continue for their lifetime. People in Manchester have deferred action on registration for various reasons. They may want to keep open a connection with their country of origin, or they may simply be deterred by the cost of registration. I can understand that. It will land my constituents with increasing costs if they defer the proposal or intention to register beyond the specified date. It is difficult to persuade them that they should spend money on something that perhaps may not require action on their part. They could remain Commonwealth citizens and have the voting and other rights that go with that, but how can we be sure that there will not be changes in the future?
With their plans for overseas citizenship the Government must recognise that they appear to be setting different standards of citizenship. It may be that different titles should be used for different areas of dependent territories, but it is necessary to reassure people that they have substantial rights in a country with which they have a connection. Particular care needs to be exercised in dealing with the categories of people who have relied on promises by previous British Governments that their rights would be maintained. There is the danger that the title "British overseas citizen", given to people who have relied on past British promises, will give the impression of being just a nominal title for people about whom we do not wish to bother. Their rights should be established, and the Government would act most honourably if they gave them full British citizenship.
The Bill has been seen as a means of entrenching this country's extremely restrictive immigration law. It should be an opportunity for the Government to meet the fears of minorities about their intentions. Instead, they have clearly fuelled those fears. The Home Secretary seemed surprised, for example, at the reaction of the five Archbishops of Great Britain. That surprise only indicates his lack of understanding. The Archbishops may not be conscious of the ingrained racial bias in this country, but the minority communities who are settled here know it very well.
Let me give an example. Ten days ago I came back from a visit to India and Bangladesh. I arrived at Heathrow in the morning on a plane from Dacca. The planeload of people were greeted in the immigration hall by a solid, uniformed officer who firmly directed all Bangladeshis "Over there". Those of us who were not directed into the corner in question joined a queue at the United Kingdom and Colonies counter. I joined it behind a young man who was asked by the woman immigration officer "Do you speak English? When did you come to this country? Where did you arrive?" She barely looked at the passport. She was not really listening to his answers. The whole effect was of an insult. I do not think that she intended to be insulting. Her attitude seemed to be perfectly natural. When I reached her, I was not asked those questions, but then I do not have a brown face.
That sort of attitude understandably angers black people settled here, who find themselves constantly distrusted. The attitude permeates the Bill and does immense damage to race relations. Unless the Bill is changed, it will do more damage.
The Government seem to pretend that immigration has not happened and that we are a single group who have lived here for centuries. The speech of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) was a good example of that sort of argument. If I am supposed to share common origins with the hon. Gentleman, I must say that I find it difficult to see a common culture between us.
Britain has gained from large amounts of immigration over the centuries and has profited vastly from its connections with the Empire which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) pointed out, it exploited in the nineteenth century. We cannot cut off our links and dismiss our responsibilities in a purely selfish way. The Government need to recognise that we have responsibilities for people overseas and that this is a multiracial country. Without that recognition, the Bill will remain unacceptable.
I am interested to follow the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) because he and a number of his hon. Friends have made constructive comments about the Bill—in marked contrast to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) who was aggressive and truculent. As the right hon. Gentleman has only just returned to the Chamber, he will not be aware of the constructive role that his hon. Friends have played.
It has been a manifesto promise of the Conservative and Unionist Party for more than a decade that we would seek to define in law who is, and who is not, a citizen of the United Kingdom. For any nation, the question of who belongs and who does not belong is a vital matter. I support the Bill in principle and its attempt to give this country what most other countries have enjoyed for many years, namely more or less clear-cut citizenship.
The definition of my citizenship is something along the lines of "A British subject and citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who is not subject to immigration control". I should prefer to be regarded as English, but I know that that raises complications in a United Kingdom.
I turn immediately to the first complication—Ireland and the Republic of Eire. As some of my hon. Friends have pointed out, the Bill does not deal with the position of Irish citizens and their rights in the United Kingdom. Section 2 of the Ireland Act 1949, which is headed:
Republic of Ireland not a foreign country
It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding that the Republic of Ireland is not part of His Majesty's dominions, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purposes of any law in force in any part of the United Kingdom".
That reminds me of the change in the rules of the Travellers' Club in the eighteenth century. The original rule of the Travellers' Club was that one could be a member if one went as far as Italy or farther, but many applicants for membership were going only as far as Avignon, so the rules of the club were changed, and Avignon was deemed to be in Italy. Similarly, it seems that the Republic of Eire is deemed in our law not to be a foreign country.
That is remarkable, because the Republic of Ireland should be treated as an independent sovereign State, which is how it wants to be treated. The removal of voting rights would require an amendment of the Representation of the People Act 1949. Many of us, I should like to think a majority in this House, would consent to that. But as the British Nationality Act 1948 declares Irish citizens not to be aliens—and further provides that
any law in force in any part of the United Kingdom and Colonies
shall apply to citizens of the Irish Republic—I should have thought that some mention of the need for a commitment from our Government to phase out these absurd and non-reciprocal privileges was long overdue.
Several of my hon. Friends have linked the Bill with the subject of immigration. Probably they meant immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan. I believe that that view, in part at least, is shared, in regard to different aspects of the argument, on the Opposition Benches.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State said at the Conservative Party conference in October last year:
We have got finally to dispose of the lingering notion that Britain is somehow a haven for all those whose countries we once ruled.
It is my belief—contrary to general opinion—that the Bill does not really address itself to immigration from the
New Commonwealth and Pakistan and its consequences for our country and people. It will do nothing effective to stop the motive forces which are at work here.
The law defines only the categories of people who can enter the United Kingdom freely, as of right. The law does not define those who cannot enter. Home Secretaries, if they so wish, can let anyone in. They do, and they have done over 30 years. In the period of a decade since the 1970 election of a Conservative Government on the manifesto "A Better Tomorrow", containing a pledge that
there will be no further large-scale permanent immigration into this country",
over half a million people from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan have been accepted for settlement.
Nor does the Bill deal with the effects of such a migration, which will lead, in my judgment, to a challenge to our values, our traditions, our heritage and our customs, culminating, regrettably, in the breakdown of law, order and authority and of tolerant and liberal government. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and others of my hon. Friends mentioned the question of dual nationality. I regret that the Bill does not attempt to deal with this matter. The White Paper indicates that there are thought to be about 3 million citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with dual nationality who are exempt from United Kingdom immigration control, of whom 1 million are in the United Kingdom.
Like my hon. Friends, I believe that the Government should have given consideration to requiring citizens here with dual citizenship to exercise a choice within a convenient period as to whether they wish to opt for British citizenship or another country's citizenship. I do not believe that one can have divided loyalties. I do not believe that one can be loyal to more than one country at once.
Is it not important to distinguish two separate factors here? First, there are Commonwealth citizens who are patrials and have the right to enter this country. Secondly, there are those who are able, if they wish, to have dual citizenship. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are many people who in theory could have dual citizenship but who, if they chose to exercise that right, would lose their existing citizenship. Existing Malaysian citizens, if they chose to exercise their United Kingdom citizenship, would lose their Malaysian citizenship. I think that the hon. Gentleman has got his figures wrong in that sense.
I believe that a person has citizenship rights. Whether he wishes to exercise them or not, the choice is there. It is a matter for that person to decide.
The highlight of the debate, to my mind, was the "debate within a debate" between the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), with the early part of whose speech and the historical perspectives concerning the 1948 Act I fully agreed. That debate concerned the concepts of the jus soli, literally the law of the soil, and the jus sanguinis, the law of blood or kinship. The former, I believe, comes from the Anglo-Saxons in this country, while the latter is of perhaps more continental origin.
There may be good arguments for changing from the traditional Anglo-Saxon jus soli to the jus sanguinis and the system which currently prevails on the continent. I believe that in France the jus sanguinis has been watered down in recent decades. Nevertheless, it probably remains true that a person born in France of foreign parents does not necessarily acquire French citizenship. It is certainly not automatic. He or she has to take some kind of oath of allegiance on reaching full age, and must have been resident in France for a certain period since birth in order to qualify.
As one of my constituents put it—rather crudely, as he readily admitted—"a dachshund born in a foxhound's kennel may remain a dachshund, but he may feel himself to be more of a foxhound than a dachshund, and if he remains long enough in the kennel may behave so much like a foxhound as to be accepted as such." That is acceptable, depending upon the numbers of dachshunds and foxhounds. The ratio between the two can severely impress upon this argument. But I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for York that the concepts of jus soli and jus sanguinis will have to be fought out and settled in Committee.
The Bill as it stands is a helpful document, and I commend it to the House.
I represent a constituency in Bradford which contains many Asians, especially Pakistanis, and many East Europeans. Consequently, as the Home Office knows, I am in touch with it constantly about problems of the kind which will be affected by this Bill. The people who consult me would like a Bill which is simple to understand. Bearing in mind that sometimes their English is not perfect and that some have not had the advantage of great education, it is essential to have rules which are simple. The Bill fails that test because it is unduly complicated. In fact, for people whose parents were not born in Britain it is an exceedingly and unsatisfactorily complicated Bill.
I want to deal with some of the practical effects of the Bill, as I see them. First, everyone who is involved in problems of this kind knows that the Home Office is overburdened already and has great difficulty in dealing quickly with many of the problems confronting it. People applying for naturalisation have to wait years for the resolution of their applications. It follows that any legislation imposing further work on the Home Office needs to be scrutinised carefully to see whether that work can be avoided.
In the Bill, we have a recipe for a fantastic amount of additional work for the Home Office. First, there is a limitation of two years for applications by wives and others already in Britain who wish to register. One knows from experience of the Pakistan Act and from the current delays in the Home Office that this will not only produce a large swell of applications from people trying to get in within the two-year limit but that, although the Home Office is insisting on a two-year limit in the Bill, it has no hope of dealing with applications presented to it within any reasonable period unless there is a vast increase in its staff. Therefore, we need to know what the staffing proposals are for the Home Office in order that it may operate the legislation. It insists that people already in the country who wish to be registered or naturalised should apply within two years, but it cannot give any undertaking about dealing with applications in a reasonable period.
In those circumstances, it would be to the advantage not only of applicants but also of the Home Office if a far longer time than two years were allowed for applications to be made under these transitional provisions order to avoid it being engulfed and to reduce the delay in the handling of applications, which could then be staggered over a longer period. Delay in itself is an injustice; it is not just an inconvenience. It is a denial of justice to impose delay on people who are anxious for their applications to be considered. For these transitional provisions, we should be thinking in terms of, say, five years in which people might apply and not of only two years.
The next matter that I deal with concerns wives. At the moment, wives already here will have the two years in which to apply. However, if they fail to apply in the two years—and many of them will not even hear of their rights within the two years—they will have to fall back on another provision, which says that they may apply for citizenship if they have been in Britain for three years and they comply with certain requirements. At the moment, the wife of a United Kingdom citizen can apply virtually immediately upon arrival. That right is taken away from her by this Bill. What is more, if she does not apply within the allotted two years, she comes within a provision which says that she has to speak English to a reasonable standard. That does not apply at present to wives of United Kingdom citizens.
Therefore, the effect of the Bill—let there be no doubt about it—is that wives from, say, Pakistan will not in future he able to acquire British citizenship if they do not apply within two years, since most of them do not speak good English. Therefore, if they do not put their applications in within two years, we shall be saying to all Pakistani men about their wives and to all Pakistani wives that, in practical terms, "For you citizenship is out for ever; we are stopping it dead." The effect of the Bill is for all time to deny British citizenship to Pakistani wives and others who do not speak English even if they are here until they are 75 years of age.
Furthermore, because of the language qualification, not only Asians but many East Europeans, such as those in my constituency, who have been here since the 1940s, who fought in the Army against the Germans, will not be able to get British citizenship because they are aliens and there is the language qualification. No one would say after 30 years that the Poles and other East Europeans in my constituency did not have an intention permanently to remain in Britain. No one could argue that they do not feel intimately concerned with the well-being of this country. In truth, it is a prime consideration for them and they are extremely attached to Britain. Yet some of them will be denied British citizenship because they cannot speak English. I go to a Polish club and I know a lot of Poles who fought in the British Army in the desert, but some would not be able to obtain citizenship because their English is inadequate.
I should favour the abolition of the language test but if it is to be there, there should be a provision that if the only disqualification is an inability to speak English well, those who have been here for 20 or 30 years, or some lengthy period, should be able to get citizenship. It may be remiss of someone that he is not able to speak English, but if people have been here for 25 years they should be entitled, irrespective of the language deficiency, to apply for and receive British citizenship. Yet East Europeans in this country are denied it, and there is no doubt that under the Bill a great many other people, including Asians, will likewise be denied it.
What about aged dependants who come over here? Under the Bill, because of the language test, many have no chance of obtaining British citizenship. Moreover, it means that a wife with inadequate English who comes here at 19 years of age, lives here for 30 years, bears her children here and develops an intimate interest in the welfare of Britain, seeing her children attend school and being involved in Britain, will not be able to obtain citizenship. In my view, the language test should be examined extremely carefully.
It is said that under the Bill husbands will for the first time be treated in the same way as wives, which means in practical terms that when they come to Britain they will be able to apply for naturalisation in three years instead of the usual five. That is said to be an advantage, but what is not pointed out is that they cannot get in now, or nearly all of them cannot, because they are not allowed to marry and immigration control will stop them coming in. So very few will be able to enter.
Secondly, even if they do come here, the language test will prevent some from obtaining citizenship, but if they do manage to scrape through the language test, they will be confronted with enormous delay in the Home Office in dealing with their applications. They will apply after three years, and they will not get an answer until after five years anyway, because the Home Office is already overburdened and will be inundated as a result of all the additional applications flooding in.
I am not blaming the Home Office officials. The Minister's own officials are exceedingly helpful and I give them credit for it. But they know that they are overburdened and will not be able to deal with this additional burden unless there is a vast increase in the bureaucracy.
What is more, because of the time limits and the value judgments which will be made by the officials about who gets what under the Bill, Members of Parliament will have far more work as people come to them to ask about this problem and that. Therefore, not only will officials at the Home Office be overburdened but Members of Parliament representing constituencies where there are many Asians, West Indians and so on will find a constant additional stream of people coming to them for help.
The subject of children born abroad is interesting. If a child born abroad has one parent who was born in Britain, all is well. However, if neither parent were born in Britain but one nevertheless has British citizenship, an application for registration can be made, provided that it is made within 12 months of birth. The child has no say about the application, because it is under 12 months old. Therefore the child's future citizenship depends on whether the parents make that application within 12 months of the birth.
If the parents are out of Britain for more than 12 months—the provision will not only apply to coloured people—they will not even think of making an application. How will they know about the provisions? They probably will not know that an Act has been passed. If they fail to make an application, a different application can be made for the minor if both the parents and the child return to Britain for a consecutive period of three years prior to the application. An exception can be made if the parents are divorced, or if one parent is dead. However, let us suppose that the parents are only separated and that the father lives abroad. If the mother returns to live in England with a one-year-old child, and if the child lives here for several years, it will not—if the Bill is enacted—obtain British citizenship because the father has not been divorced, and lives outside Britain. That is inequitable.
Even if the father works outside Britain for just above 270 days in every three-year period, the child will never be able to obtain British citizenship although, at the time of its birth, one of its parents was—although not by birth—a British citizen. The provision is inequitable and the Bill should be reconsidered.
The Bill is not only highly complicated but also grossly unfair. Under clause 41 no reason need be given for a refusal by the Home Office. That is a dangerous prerogative because the Home Office has to apply subjective tests. For example, if one of the parents is a British citizen at the time of the child's birth abroad, but is not a British citizen by birth and the parent then dies the Home Office must be satisfied upon an application for citizenship that at the time of birth that parent had an intention to maintain a close connection with this country. The Home Office has to decide what was in the dead parent's mind at the time of the birth—that is, whether the parent wanted to maintain a close connection with Britain.
To try to obtain reliable evidence is a chancy business. Although the Home Office would no doubt try to be fair, it could go wrong. What could be done if the Home Office did go wrong? Under the Bill, the Home Office takes power to itself to give no reason for any refusal. We need never know why a child has been refused. Under clause 41, the Government have taken power to deny access to the courts. That is what the South African Government do when legislation is sensitive. Therefore, a person will not be able to apply to the courts, nor will he be given a reason for refusal by the Home Office, unless—in its benevolence—the Home Office decides to do so. There is no adjudicator or any other forum of appeal.
At the very least the Home Office should provide the reasons, except in sensitive areas connected with good character—I understand that it might not want to provide reasons in those circumstances or in circumstances connected with the safety of the realm. However, if there is a Home Office refusal concerning a small child, it should give its reason so that, if thought appropriate, someone can argue the case. If it will not give the reason, how can an argument be developed? There is a huge increase in the discretionary powers of the Home Office arising from the Bill.
For all those reasons, I submit that the Bill will need careful scrutiny in Committee. It should be opposed on Second Reading. Bearing in mind the complications that will arise through the inequities of treatment between children whose parents were born here and children whose parents were not, I must say that the Bill is a racist measure.
I am able to agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) that the Bill must be considered carefully. However, I did not agree with him when he said that he hoped that we would have a simple Bill. He made a plea that is similar, for example, to that made by those who are neither lawyers nor accountants when talking about legislation imposing taxation. They ask "Why cannot we have a simple tax?" In the same way, it is impossible to have a simple piece of legislation when dealing with the accumulation of many years of legislation about both citizenship and immigration. We cannot quickly sweep away all our imperial past. We must take account of the various compromises and, no doubt, anomalies that have arisen in the past.
It is inevitable that there will be perhaps five or six various subsidiary forms of citizenship that give rise to most anomalous conditions. I agree with part of the careful and extremely helpful speech of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), namely, that the most important thing is to understand the rights that we wish to confer upon those from other lands—people who might in a broad sense be not immediately identifiable as British citizens of any category. In that part of his speech the hon. Gentleman was talking about subsidiary forms of citizenship.
Let us not give those who are not immediately identifiable as British citizens any rights that may not be honoured subsequently. Let us not, for instance, take up the trick of the 1930s of entering into alliances that we have no serious intention of honouring. Let us understand what we promise, and let us have a public debate so that we have a serious intention, when conferring rights, that they shall be honoured later.
I confine the main part of my short observations to the principal form of British citizenship. It is a most unfortunate reaction from the Labour Party that it objects to the Bill principally because the new Commonwealth and Pakistan ethnic community finds itself in an uneasy state of mind because British nationality is being discussed. Anyone who discusses his or her nationality feels uneasy.
I was thinking of my own reactions. There may be those who say that I have racial prejudices but I do not have, perhaps as strong colour prejudices. In my constituency there is quite a large Polish community. I see the members of that community about once a year. They speak to me in the most vibrant terms. They make my political views seem the wettest of the wet. At the end of the conversation I usually ask them "Are you going to vote for me?" They reply "No. We are Poles." I tell them how much I admire them and they say "We love your country second to our own". I respond by saying "But we betrayed you in the 1930s, we patronised you in the war and we sold you out at Yalta, yet you are still able to say that about the British people". They say "Yes, but I was born a Pole, and I shall die a Pole". What could be more honourable than that? What could be a better demonstration of allegiance to a nation State?
My hon. Friend has given a fine example to the House. It is one with which many hon. Members are familiar. But does he agree that he, I and others ought to instigate a movement within this place to ensure that fine people such as the Poles do not continue to be disfranchised? They have lived, worked and paid their taxes here, and made a marvellous contribution to our society. For example, Commonwealth citizens who do not speak a word of English are able to vote, but Poles who speak good English and have a good understanding of our way of life—perhaps greater than that of recent arrivals from the Indian sub-continent—cannot.
Their attitude is the most wonderful expression of nationhood. There should be no legislation to force them to be British when they wish to be Polish. As I discuss their nationhood I find myself deeply disturbed, because allegiance towards a country is one of the most important factors in one's being. Of course, I understand that new Commomwealth and Pakistan ethnic communities inevitably feel disturbed as we discuss nationality in the House. Here I disagree with my hon. Friend the member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). He said, in what was a generally excellent speech, that the concept of nationality should enhance our sense of community. It should, but it should also define our sense of community. That means that those who feel themselves to be somewhere near the border, wherever that border may be, will inevitably feel uneasy.
We cannot baulk at the disagreeable duty that arises from both our imperial past and the consequence of the high level of immigration that has occurred during the past decade. Perhaps it will be obvious because of my passionate admiration for the Poles that I feel we should, most of all, attach to our concept of British citizenship the old idea of allegiance.
It will perhaps be difficult to go nap on either the jus soli or the jus sanguinis. We may be left with an uneasy compromise between the two that will give neither clarity nor certainty that the acceptance of either principle would give. If we wish to retain our sense of cohesion as a nation, we must return to the concept of allegiance.
Let us consider an intelligent Pakistani doctor serving on a jury. If he feels a sense of allegiance it is allegiance to the good order and justice that are necessary parts of the British way of life. Having accepted the concept of allegiance, one would hope that he would not have any prejudice in favour of or against a black accused person being tried for assault on the police. One would hope that he would see it as his duty to consider the evidence as fairly and objectively as any other juror would.
Again, taking the concept of allegiance, it would be unwise to create in the Army circumstances similar to those that existed at the time of the Curragh mutiny in 1914. If we are to retain our cohesion, we must surely grasp at the concept of allegiance.
It follows from that that I believe that something must be done to abolish the idea of dual nationality. I found my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood helpful on this point. One of the best ways for the new immigrant community to demonstrate its adherence to this country is to say "I have given up my citizenship of Pakistan or Bangladesh. In the event of the United Kingdom declaring war upon Pakistan, I am prepared to fight with the British Forces against Pakistan." What better way could there be of demonstrating that this was home? What better way could there be of demonstrating that they were British black people?
I have been following my hon. Friend's speech closely, but I have some difficulty in following him in this respect. I understood his admiration for the Polish community to be founded on their intense national pride. I find that general admiration difficult to reconcile with his latest suggestion that Pakistanis should renounce their Pakistani nationality.
If they wish to become British citizens, if they wish to enjoy the benefits and shoulder the obligations of British citizenship, they should owe allegiance to no other country. That is in no way inconsistent with what I was saying, with great admiration, for the Poles in my constituency.
It follows that I profoundly regret the Home Secretary's unwillingness to grapple with the problem of the Southern Irish. It seems wholly wrong that that problem has not been tackled. I understand that in 1922—in the aftermath of the Black and Tans and much that was no doubt regarded with abhorrence and guilt in this House and elsewhere—there was a sense that we would create yet another anomaly regarding the Republic. But we do not need to feel that any more. It is profoundly wrong that in some constituencies the decision may rest with a large group of citizens of the Republic who may actively wish to see the downfall of the policies of the British Government and people in Northern Ireland. Indeed, they may make inquiries about the loyalty of individual candidates before casting their votes. I believe that in our discussions on the Bill the House should express a very firm view on that matter.
The Conservative Party election manifesto said that the Conservatives would introduce a British Nationality Bill to define entitlement to British citizenship and to rights of abode in this country and that none of this would affect the rights of anyone now permanently settled in this country. That statement, which I have checked carefully, has to be set against what is contained in the Bill.
It has been demonstrated that one way in which people in this country are likely to be affected relates to the question of citizenship. It seems incredible that if someone has passed the test of citizenship and has acquired citizenship, and has gone through all that is required to achieve it, he can be told, at the end of the day, that although he is a citizen of this country his citizenship is different from the citizenship of someone who acquired the citizenship by birth, and that his child, if born abroad, or his right of passing on that citizenship, will be affected because of the status of the citizenship and the way it was acquired. I have heard no explanation from the Secretary of State about why this is necessary. It does not seem logical.
I should like to tell a story which illustrates the confusion. Two years ago, I was in India, along with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), who also knows this story, a number of journalists and other people, studying customs and problems in relation to immigration. We came across a couple of Indian origin, resident in Britain, who had passed all the tests of adoption in Britain through the social services. They had gone to India to adopt a child.
They had heard of our presence through the press and came to us in great consternation because the British authorities were saying that they would have to obtain an entry certificate to bring the baby into Britain. The baby, according to the authorities, had no legal rights of entry. We created. I came back prior to the couple, who were returning on a scheduled flight, to clear entry for the child into this country. The immigration authorities told me that they would grant temporary admission pending the sorting out of the documentation.
Those to whom I have related this story have described it as appalling. They stressed how dreadful and awful would have been the situation if the woman had given birth naturally, but prematurely, in India. Would the same difficulties have been encountered?
If we have particular classes of citizenship which mean that rights are denied to a group of people according to where their child is born, that position will be repeated time and again. The problem for ethnic minorites in this country is the insecurity that this sort of provision brings about.
I find it inconceivable that the House should be presented with a Bill on nationality without taking account of the relationship of nationals and the European Economic Community. There is a tremendous gap in the proposed legislation. It leaves out of account the confusion that exists in relation to this matter. In fact, the Bill makes the confusion even greater. I have raised previously in the House the contradiction relating the children born in Britain of people who are permanently settled here but who are not EEC nationals. They are not covered for reciprocal medical treatment within the EEC, unlike other children born in this country whose parents are EEC nationals. I am told that this matter, which concerns an EEC regulation, is constantly discussed within the EEC. It is to be hoped that it can be rectified.
The Bill does not deal with the contradictions in relation to nationality and the Treaty of Rome. That is amazing. When we signed the treaty to enter the European Economic Community, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who was then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told the House in December 1971, in exchanges with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), that he had been required by the EEC to give a definition of nationals and one did not exist because the concept of nationals of a country was pertinent to all the discussions and arguments in relation to the EEC. He said that he had given a definition. That definition was never accepted by the House. It never went through any legislative process. The definition of citizenship that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave was:
Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British Subjects not possessing that citizenship or the citizenship of any other Commonwealth country or territory, who, in either case, have the right of abode in the United Kingdom and are therefore exempt from United Kingdom immigration control.
That definition was given to the House.
Six weeks later the definition changed. At no time was anything written into statute. The definition changed in order to meet the point made about Gibraltar. The following line was added to the definition:
persons who are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies by birth or by registration or naturalisation in Gibraltar or whose father was so born, registered or naturalized".
During that time, someone had discovered that Gibraltar citizens, under the Treaty of Rome, must be included in the free mobility of labour.
There has always been a contradiction in the relationship between nationality in this country and in the EEC. At the time of our entry, the declaration that was made—it was accepted, but never debated in this Chamber—defined United Kingdom nationals for the purpose of EEC law so as to exclude United Kingdom citizens who had no rights of abode here and who were subject to immigration control. As a result, they are worse off than people who are United Kingdom citizens by virtue of a connection with Gibraltar. Gibraltar was added and specifically included because of a contradiction that exists regarding rights of free mobility of labour of people in British territories.
In seeking to define nationality, we must bear in mind, on the one hand, that we are members of the Community and that all those people who are nationals of this country or of other member countries have the right of free mobility of labour. At the same time, however, we must write into this Bill the fact that many people permanently settled in this country who would not be nationals in the sense understood by the EEC will be excluded from the rights afforded to those who are nationals of the EEC.
Let us consider the history of the EEC since 1971, when the matter was first raised in this Chamber. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that he had to give a definition. He said that he had been asked for a definition, but that none existed. A definition was given which will make it more difficult now for the people who are being given second, third or fourth-class citizenship because they are being excluded from nationality except in certain circumstances to be included in the nationality relationships and the rights of nationals within the EEC. That is a shocking omission.
One difficulty in debating immigration is that whenever we raise doubts—and both Governments have been guilty of appalling errors and misconceptions—we are always assured that the difficulties will not occur. But they always do. I remember it being said many years ago that it would be much easier if we stipulated that people coming here had to have entry certificates. We were told that that would solve everything. People would have their certificate, show it at the port of entry and be admitted, and all the problems at ports of entry would disappear. Rights of entry, visas and certificates of entry were introduced. They did not solve anything. People who have their visas are still being detained at airports and sent back or told to furnish further information. All the problems that we foresaw have occurred. Doubts therefore remain in the minds of ethnic minorities.
However, leaving all that aside, as a fundamental principle of human rights we cannot tell various groups of people that they are citizens of this country but that they have different rights, some have more rights than others and their children have different rights. That is not citizenship. A person is either a citizen or he is not; a citizen's child either has the right to citizenship or it does not. The matter cannot be decided by where a person or his child is born. If a person has fulfilled the conditions laid down for citizenship, is of good character and has lived in the country for the set time, we cannot then say to him that his next-door neighbour and his child have more right to citizenship. That is no way to make people equal under the law. We already have many inequalities written into United Kingdom and EEC legislation.
There is much in the Bill that needs changing, but I hope that, above all, the Minister will carefully reconsider the question of citizenship. We should have one kind of citizenship, with equal rights for all citizens.
I oppose the Bill on behalf of ethnic minorities and Gibraltarians, but above all, on behalf of my constituents, many of whom are coloured immigrants. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has taken a positive stand against the Bill. He states that he will oppose it at every stage.
We have excellent race relations in Glasgow. Many of our coloured brothers and sisters have proved themselves to be hard working and an asset to the community. Glasgow is criticised by many, but our race relations are among the best in the United Kingdom. Some of my countrymen may be tempted to add that the only race that we Scots have problems with are the English, especially over tickets for certain football matches.
Just before Christmas I attended a meeting of the immigrant community to discuss the Bill. A great number of people were there because of their concern about the Bill. Immigrant communities in Glasgow and throughout the United Kingdom will not quietly accept the proposals. They will organise themselves to lobby Parliament to ensure that we are aware of their anxieties.
No one can say that the Act does not need to be changed. It is 32 years old and much has changed in the country in that time. Many former British colonies have rightly gained their independence. Therefore, the Act is out-dated.
In addition, in nearly every other country, rights are accorded to citizens on the basis of a clear nationality law which defines exactly who is and who is not a citizen. We lack such a law. Since the British Nationality Act 1948 established that every citizen of any Commonwealth country or colony was a British subject, different laws have produced different definitions for different purposes. It was said earlier that the immigration legislation is the most notorious example of that.
The notion of belongers and non-belongers, later given a degree of respectability by being changed to patrials and non-patrials in the Immigration Act 1971, has been seen throughout the world as an attempt to discriminate among British subjects who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, on thinly-disguised racial criteria.
The Opposition welcome changes to the nationality Act, but any change must be positive and must enhance people's present position. It is only natural for people to need more rights and to want to feel more strongly that they are members of our society. It is only natural that when existing rights are taken away, that leads down the road to hardship, confrontation and conflict. I strongly suggest that the proposals in the Bill go down that road.
The Bill is based on the present immigration law. Conservative Members may deny this as much as they like, but the present immigration law is effectively racist, and if any new law were based on that, it would also be effectively racist. Furthermore, the White Paper on the Bill admits frankly that some children will be born stateless to British parents overseas, although the United Kingdom is a party to the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness. That is useless and hypocritical and should not be tolerated. The effect of ignoring the international aspect of nationality is that nationality is not defined in the Bill in the terms now universally accepted by other countries.
We have heard repeatedly that the existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies is to be split into three categories: British citizenship, citizenship of the British dependent territories and British overseas citizenship. In addition, two old categories will remain for a short time—British subjects without citizenship of any Commonwealth country, and British protected persons. In total, that is five different kinds of British nationality, only one of which establishes any substantial rights.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have talked about the rights of British citizens, and whether all British citizens will have the same rights. We know that that is nonsense and will not be the case. The Bill is ambiguous on that matter. Any Bill worth its salt should contain a clear definition of citizens' rights. If it is to have credibility the Bill will have to do the same.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) that the omission of the EEC is incredible. The EEC was not mentioned in the White Paper. Anyone who is a national of a member country has the right of freedom of movement, with employment and settlement for the workers' dependants in the other member States. That means that the definition of nationality in any country in the EEC affects the other member States. It also affects British people who want to seek work in other member States.
The definition of British nationality for EEC purposes is attached to the Treaty of Accession to the European Community. That will no longer be valid when the new law has been passed. Our legal names for our nationality will have changed. We do not yet know what new definitions the Government will propose. It cannot be simply "British citizens" because Gibraltarians will now be classed as citizens of a British dependent territory, and they must have freedom of movement under Community law. In addition, any new definition will have to be approved by the other member States because that will constitute a change to a treaty to which they are parties.
The proposals should be rejected. The Bill cannot deal adequately in a fair and just manner with the people who will be most affected by it. If it is to mean anything it must, therefore, be changed. It should contain in clear and precise terms what citizens' rights are attached to it. The rights of people affected by the current Act should, if anything, be expanded. At the least they should remain the same. It is intolerable that existing rights could be taken from them. The Bill should leave aside the Immigration Act. A new Bill that is based on anything that is racist becomes tainted with racism also.
The EEC should be mentioned. Like it or lump it, we are for the moment in the EEC, and while we are, as we have been told so often, we must conform to the rules of the Community.
I am pleased that the Opposition will be voting against the Bill tonight and at every other stage. If any Conservative Members want to do something positive about the Gibraltarians they should join us in the Lobby tonight.
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member I should point out that six hon. Members wishing to speak have been waiting here nearly all day. If I call other hon. Members who have not been here so long I hope that they will not take up too much time.
Perhaps I may begin by commenting on a remark by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Mr. Mc Taggart). I understood one of his criticisms of the Bill to be that it did not contain a full recital of citizens' rights. The Bill is not essentially concerned with citizens' rights, but with defining nationality, which is a wholly different concept.
When we talk about citizens' rights we talk about rights which each person has in his daily life—the right to vote, the right to participate in jury service, the right to serve in Her Majesty's Forces and so on. This Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for seeking to define that category of right. If the hon. Member's opposition to this Bill is founded on such narrow grounds I simply say to him that the ground is unsound and he had better leave it.
I agreed very much with the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). It is important that the concept of nationality at least be derived from and founded upon some notion of allegiance. The arguments that have been advanced in support of that proposition are compelling.
I understand at present that anyone who is born in this country whose parents are not here for some special purpose—for example diplomats—have a right to claim British nationality. That must be, in a world in which we have much travel, complete nonsense. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is entirely right to stress the close identity that should exist between the right of nationality and the concept of allegiance. No society can be homogeneous for any period unless that proposition is accepted. I have looked at clause 1 with great care and it seems to go a long way towards establishing the relationship that ought properly to exist between nationality and allegiance.
When my knowledge of the complete terms of a Bill is limited, I hesitate to criticise the details at length, but there are one or two aspects that I wish to mention in a slightly critical frame of mind. The first is a serious one relating to the special problems of some of my constituents. I represent many Service families, and such families tend to marry among themselves. Frequently, two or three generations of Service families have married other such families. If a child is born abroad to Service parents who are the children of Service families and were born abroad themselves, their child may be denied nationality under the Bill. That may be a misconception. If so, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will correct me.
Another matter flows from the speech of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) who said that we should not commit ourselves to any obligations that we are not prepared to honour. I agree with the hon Gentleman. One embarrassment that has afflicted all Governments since the war is that we have been lumbered with a residue of commitments that are difficult to fulfil, if not undesirable. We do not want that to happen in future. I hope that there is nothing in the Bill that future Governments will not feel able to honour.
No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be bouncing up and down in Committee making such points. I am laying down an important general proposition. We should not commit ourselves to obligations that we are not prepared to honour.
The hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) referred to the effects of clause 41. My detailed study of the clause suggests that the Home Secretary, governors-general or viceroys, if we still have any viceroys, are not obliged to state the reasons why they have chosen to exercise their discretion in a particular way. I am against Ministers, viceroys or anyone else clothing their decisions in secrecy. As a general rule, we should not allow Ministers to dodge the issue. If there are reasons for excluding someone from the United Kingdom or denying him nationality, we should not be ashamed to say so and we should allow a challenge in the courts. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will give that narrow point further consideration in Committee.
In view of your injunction, Mr. Speaker, I shall conclude shortly. It is unfair for Opposition Members to criticise the Bill on the ground of complexity. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West who said that, with our imperial past, it is inevitable that there will be commitments and anomalies that cannot be cleared up in a one-clause Bill. If they could be tied up in a one-clause Bill, every hon. Member here would have read it, which I fancy is not the case.
Finally, I echo what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said when he introduced the Bill earlier today. This is terribly important. It is a statute that goes right to the nature of our society. It is constitutional in its importance. That being so, one hopes that it will receive a generally sympathetic approach. By all means criticise it in Committee. There are imperfections in the Bill; there are bound to be. But let us not adopt a narrow partisan view, because matters of this kind are far too important for that.
I am very glad to have the opportunity to intervene briefly in the debate at this late stage, particularly in the presence of the Secretary of State, because I wish to make a particular plea to him. I do so having had some experience in the post held by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and in the post held by the Minister of State, Home Office, who is to reply to the debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) that there cannot possibly be a simple Bill, but I do not believe that the Secretary of State would want to introduce a Bill that could clearly do damage to race and community relations in this country.
I agree with every word that was said by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). My conviction, from many discussions that I have had, is that unless there is a good deal of further consultation on the Bill we shall find that race relations and community relations will suffer partly because of the proposal to introduce, in a sense, a new distinction between British citizens who were born here and British citizens who were not.
I agree with the hon. Member for Grantham that the more we can divorce party politics from this issue the better. However much we may have argued among ourselves and between ourselves on immigration policies, it has been held on each side of the House that all those who are in Britain and who are citizens of Britain should have the same rights, whatever their colour, whatever their race and whatever their background. The Bill has introduced a change in that position.
I give a personal example. I have a daughter, and because I am her father and was born in Britain, if she has a child overseas, that child will be a British citizen. I also have a child living with me who is a refugee from Vietnam. I expect that eventually he will get married. If he were to go abroad, then, because his parents were not born in this country, a child of his born abroad would not be a citizen of this country. Yet he is part of my family, in the same way that the people who are living in this country are all part of our family, and our responsibility is to try to see that every person who is properly settled in this country feels a sense of confidence that his rights will not be taken away from him.
My plea to the Home Secretary is not to put the Bill straight into Committee, whichever of the procedures is followed. I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will deal with the degree of consultation that there was with the people who will be affected by the Bill. The Commission for Racial Equality has spoken out strongly against many aspects of the Bill that it feels will worsen community relations in this country. I shall not go into the arguments that have been used, but they are very cogent. Arguments have also been put forward by representatives of organisations who have come to see the Parliamentary Labour Party. We have seen representatives of the Indian community, the Pakistani community, and the Bangladesh community, as well as West Indians, Cypriots and others.
I should like to know the extent to which the Home Secretary, and his ministerial colleagues have discussed the Bill with those who speak for the people who will be affected by it. What consultation has there been?
Of no less importance is the fact that there have been clear and concerted attacks on the Bill.
No less important are the clear and concerted attacks on the Bill by the Church of England, by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
I mention just two of the six points made by the five archbishops. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), and also like the Commission for Racial Equality, the archbishops want it stated
as a matter of principle that our national identity is multiracial".
I agree with that. Secondly, they want the retention of what they call
the fundamental principle that anyone born in Britain should acquire British nationality regardless of race or culture or background.
I agree with that, too.
It is a matter of considerable importance that the Secretary of State should consult, listen to and take note of the views of those who speak for large sections of the community in this country, and who genuinely care about good community relations in Britain. The archbishops said that, in a sense, they were trying to speak on behalf of the minorities who feel insecure and vulnerable. They said that
far from responding to this concern, the Bill will sharply increase these feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.
Those are the archbishops' words, and I agree with them.
I therefore ask the Minister of State to tell the House, first, what representations—I and other hon. Members have mentioned a number of them—have been made to him against certain parts of the Bill, and secondly, what support he has received for the Bill, and from which organisations. There has been criticism from both sides of the House. What consultation have the Government had with the minority groups in this country?
I repeat the plea made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that the Government should think very carefully before they take final decisions on the Bill. After all, although there was a White Paper and a Green Paper before it, the Bill was published only nine or 10 days ago. We are trying to tidy up our nationality law after 31 years. It is essential that we get it right this time. My plea to the Home Secretary is to take time, to have more consultations and to try to get a wider consensus in Britain in support of the Bill, rather than try to push it quickly through Committee and Report, with all the uncertainty and division that that could create.
Today marks a watershed in the discussion of immigration and nationality in this country. Despite the abuse that has been heaped upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I believe that his speech indicated that watershed. Indeed, I believe that the vast majority of Labour Members welcome that break with the past. I gathered from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) that he, too, agrees implicitly with that, even if he did not explicitly state that intention. I see my right hon. Friend nodding his head. So the then Minister of State at the Home Office responsible for the 1968 Act also wishes to indicate his assent to the proposition that today is a watershed in nationality and immigration.
There is also unanimous agreement in the House that, as it stands at the moment, our nationality law is a mess. But how we clear up the mess is a matter for discussion and for philosophical dispute between the two sides.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) received praise today from both sides of the House, which perhaps is a new distinction for him, though I am not sure what it will do for his reputation outside. I agree with him to the extent that if, to use his word, we were starting with a virgin sheet of paper, we would define nationality in terms either of descent or country of birth or a mixture of the two. I agree with my hon. Friend in theory, that that is what we should do, but we in the United Kingdom cannot do that. We cannot just throw out of the window the inheritance—perhaps some people consider it an unfortunate inheritance—of Britain's past empire.
Because of those difficulties the Bill falls into the trap to which reference was made in the Green Paper—and which was more explicitly expressed in the White Paper—of mixing citizenship with immigration control. Despite what the Home Secretary said to the contrary, the Bill seeks to marry citizenship to the needs of immigration control.
The Bill represents the final insult to those groups of people to whom we offered citizenship of the United Kingdom. They accepted that citizenship. By accepting it, they indicated their close relationship with the United Kingdom. They accepted that citizenship when their countries became independent. Thus, the Bill is the final insult to those people, and it is an insult that was started by the 1968 Act, introduced when my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South was at the Home Office. It was continued, ore fiercely and vehemently in the Immigration Act 1971. The House will recall that those two Acts withdrew from those groups of people the basic rights of citizenship—the right of entry and the right to settle in the country of which they are nationals.
The 1971 Act went even further than the 1968 Act, because it led to the odious and immoral position in which nationals of this country were denied entry and settlement rights although millions of others—many of them non-nationals but white—were granted the right of entry.
Despite the flaccid remarks of the Home Secretary, the Bill represents the final victory for racists in this country.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is quite entitled to say "Rubbish", but he is well known for his views, which are not radical on any issue. The Bill represents the final victory for racists because it takes away an existing citizenship from the groups of people to whom I have referred and replaces it with a meaningless citizenship.
The hon. Gentleman should read the Bill. He is probably as knowledgeable as his hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who wasted seven minutes of debating time and had not even read clause 1.
The Bill seeks to take away an existing citizenship and to replace it with a meaningless British overseas citizenship for the groups of people to whom I have referred. It confers on them the right to live nowhere except at the discretion and with the good will of the host Government in the country in which they happen to be at present. It is a citizenship that cannot be transmitted to children except at the discretion of the Home Secretary, and that could in some cases lead to the possibility of statelessness. But the final solution, if I may use that emotive expression, is reached on the death of the holder of British overseas citizenship, because, fortunately for the Government, it is non-transmissible, and dies with the demise of the holder.
If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to listen, he will hear me define the groups of people to whom I am referring. The Bill represents the final disgrace in the United Kingdom's withdrawal from empire.
In order to establish what a nationality law ought to be if it is to ensure justice and fairness, one can enumerate at least four simple principles on which it ought to be based. The first is that it should create a citizenship for the United Kingdom that is based on equal rights and duties for all the holders of that citizenship. From what has been said in the debate today it is clear that the Bill does not do that. It differentiates the rights of citizens according to whether their parents were born in this country or overseas.
Secondly, the law should create a similar situation for the peoples of the remaining overseas dependencies. I accept the need for citizenship of British dependencies. Whether it be a general citizenship or one based on a particular dependency is a matter for argument, but I accept that division.
Thirdly—perhaps the Home Secretary will listen to this, because it answers his question—our nationality law should restore to existing citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with no right of abode elsewhere in the world the right of abode in this country. Fourthly, it should replace the existing system of immigration control by one based on objective and non-racial criteria. In my view, the Bill falls down on those four basic principles.
Many other things are wrong with the Bill, but in my view it is rotten at the core. No matter how one may try to improve it, one cannot remove the basic overtones of racialism implicit or explicitly stated in it.
Surely, the position ought to be that we tell the black community the truth. My hon. Friend said that he agrees that we take citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies away from dependent territories—
My hon. Friend's speech took about 22 minutes, which was far longer than the time taken by other hon. Members.
I do not believe that the basic principles of the Bill can be improved, but in Committee I shall certainly seek to obtain some small improvements. First, I hope to establish the right to hold a passport, which does not exist at present. Secondly, I shall try to ensure that there is an appeal system on the refusal of naturalisation. Thirdly, I shall try to eliminate the need for someone to pass a language test as a qualification for British citizenship by naturalisation.
Nevertheless, I repeat my basic point—it is one that I have made to my hon. Friend the Member for York many times over the past weeks and months—that there is an inherent rottenness at the root of the Bill which cannot be cured by any kind of cosmetic treatment on language, good character, or whatever it may be. I shall oppose the Bill tonight, in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to welcome the Bill and to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on a perhaps overdue, but very good, well-thought-out and complete Bill. However, the irresponsible attitude of some people, both inside and outside the House, saddens me. There seem to be those—we have heard from some of them this evening—who take great care to misrepresent the Bill. In particular, they say that it is an immigration or racist measure. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We should look at the category of people and at the sort of people who are making such remarks. Normally, at this time in the eveing, one is prepared to be charitable, but it is difficult to be charitable to the person who is in a category of his own and who is head and shoulders above—perhaps I should say feet and ankles beneath—the rest of the field, namely, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). Today he made the most disgraceful speech that I have ever heard since I have been in the House. The sole objective of his speech was to stir up fear, anxiety and almost despair among the ethnic minorities that live with us and are very welcome within the country.[Interruption.] As I think my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) said from a sedentary position, he made that speech purely to advance his career. I was about to say that he did so for Machiavellian reasons, but Machiavelli was, I understand, an intelligent person. He made it for his own devious reasons.
Socialist activists—the minnows that follow the whale that opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition—will also misrepresent the Bill and use whatever distortion or inaccuracy comes to hand as they unscrupulously trawl for support and for votes among the ethnic minorities. The racial politicians—I do not use the word pejoratively—of the community relations councils and, to a certain extent, of the CRE—tend to make an enemy of the Government, no matter which Government are in power, in order to sustain their own interests and influence among those whom they seek to represent.
We have heard quite a lot about woolly minded clerics whose adherence to impractical posturing is inclined, on occasions, to overcome their powers of rational analysis. This misrepresentation must be disabused. The Bill is not about immigration, but about nationality. Whatever nationality Bill the Government had introduced, a smattering of Opposition Members would have said that it was an immigration Bill, and a racist Bill.
I agree with my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) should have rude things to say about the Welsh. My wife is Welsh.
The Bill is not concerned with immigration. Nevertheless, there are great immigration pressures which I will come to later.
It has been said that the Bill is discriminatory on the ground of colour. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook tried to make us weep tears over the problems of a Pakistani mother who was careless enough to give birth on the Costa Brava. Had that Pakistani mother, who was born in Pakistan, been white, Indian, black, green, Chinese or even descended from stock from the planet Jupiter, the same situation would have applied. The measure is not racist or colour-prejudiced. The measure applies to anybody, whatever his background or colour.
Far be it from me to answer for the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). However, did not the right hon. Gentleman refer to a mother from Pakistan who returned to her country of origin to give birth in her family home, where her mother would be present? It was not a matter of giving birth on the Costa Brava. My hon. Friend should at least be honest enough to say that.
I hear what my hon. Friend says, but perhaps he did not hear everything that the right hon. Gentleman said. If he looks in the Official Report tomorrow, he will find that as well as referring to mothers in Pakistan, he made some remarks about holidays in Spain.
There are two reasons why the Bill must be introduced at this stage. First, we have reached the end of our period of shedding the empire. As the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) said, our nationality laws are in a mess and something has to be done about them, and I am glad that something is being done.
Secondly, there are massive pressures—here I refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Leicester, South—in the world today, in a world that has got smaller, in a world of relatively cheap air travel, from the people in the poorer parts, be it the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, or North Africa, to come to the bright lights, the hot spots, the relatively wealthy Western European economies.
This pressure has been building up and will continue to do so. In the last year alone, 1 million people visited this country from those parts of the world. Having visited, having seen, having relatives and friends here, having realised the advantages of living in our country, and having set all that against their own backgrounds, there will be real pressures from them to come and settle here if they can, or to come illegally and stay if they can.
I think that it is in that context that it is vital that we have a clear, fair and strong nationality Bill. I think that this is a good Bill. I am very pleased to congratulate my right hon. Friend. I wish it well, and I wholly support and endorse it.
I shall do my best, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to accept your strictures on the length of speeches. About 40 per cent. of the electors who sent me to this place are within the ethnic minority commuunities in central Birmingham. I can justifiably claim fairly to represent their views in this place. They have lost no time in telling me how disturbed they are by the Bill. They have told me how worried they are about the implications of its poorly spelt out provisions in what I consider to be a scratched-together document that is not worthy of the Home Secretary.
The ethnic minority communities in my constituency are reflecting to me what I believe to be genuine fears, worries and apprehensions about the future of many of their friends, relatives and dependants. Especially worrying to them are the proposals that seem to affect elderly dependants who are not able to have a strong command of the English language. One of the proposed measures that most concerns them is the language test, which has already been referred to by one or two hon. Members.
It is a fair argument that many of the elderly Asian women in our community—those who are likely to seek naturalisation and, thereafter, British citizenship—will find it difficult to meet the demands of even a reasonable test of their command of the English language. I urge the Home Secretary to do everything that he possibly can to take into account wider and more far-reaching representations from the ethnic minority groups, who are more than willing to see him or to make representations to him. It is an issue that is causing them considerable difficulty.
In this squalid measure the right hon. Gentleman has missed a valuable opportunity to bring before the House a meaningful and widely acceptable statement on British nationality. He could have seized the opportunity—I accept that it is a difficult problem—but he has not done so. That is regrettable. It is something that he will regret in years to come, because he will be criticised for not having done something positive that would have been welcomed throughout the country. To some extent he still has the opportunity to rescue his own position and to bring to the House and to take through Committee a document that would be of wide appeal to all concerned.
It is not beyond the realms of human achievement to put together a valid document that a would not exacerbate racial tension and would not lead to a wide criticism among those who are deeply affected, but would be recognised as a fair statement of what we ought to do.
During this long and worthwhile debate many hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that the legislation is unacceptable, that it is a mess, that it is confused and difficult to understand, and that it needs amending. Most of those comments are true. At least there is some common ground between us on that. Therefore, I do not see why the Home Secretary should not seize this opportunity to put things right, to allay the fears of thousands of people within the ethnic communities throughout the country, and to say "We are aware of your fears. We are aware of the difficulties that many of you face regarding immigration and nationality matters. We are going to put them right for you."
I hope that in Committee the Home Secretary will accept some of the representations that will be reflected to him by my right hon. and hon. Friends and by representatives of the minority communities. It is not difficult to ascertain their views or to understand what they have to say. Therefore, it should not be difficult to put things right.
Earlier today there was discussions about the difficulty of dealing with the legislation and with the question whether we could have simple legislation to put a difficult matter right. I do not think that the legislation need be simple. It is arguable that there are complicated matters with which to deal. Nationality and birthright are not simple matters. However, I think that the measures to put them right could be relatively simple. Regrettably, the Home Secretary has not taken it upon himself to do anything about those matters. As I said earlier, I think that he and his colleagues will long regret not doing so.
It will be a sad day when the Bill becomes law. We know that it will become law, because the Government have a majority in the House. Therefore, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said and as many of my hon. Friends have reiterated, we shall oppose it and do everything possible to try to amend it to make it better.
The creation of three types of British citizenship has caused an enormous outcry, as hon. Members on both sides will know from their postbags, let alone from press reviews. The Churches and all the other religious organisations have protested vigorously and a large number of local and national organisations representing ethnic minority groupings have also protested, with almost one voice, saying that they object to the division of black and brown people in this country into three separate classifications, all of them different from the category of white people.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who has just left the Chamber, made a racist speech, in which he said that this was not a racist Bill. I beg him to discuss the matter with black and brown people in his constituency. It seems clear that he does not have any communication or meeting of minds with them, or he would know what they thought about the Bill. It is certainly a racist and sexist Bill, and it is about immigration, as every speaker in the debate has pointed out.
I want to make two fairly small points only because all the major points have already been deployed and will be further deployed in the winding-up speeches.
I am particularly concerned about the qualification of good language. It is almost a joke. How will the powers that be judge whether people speak good English, or are able to communicate between themselves and with the host community? Who will be the judges, the arbiters, the makers of decisions whether people shall become citizens of this country in one of the three categories, on the basis of how well they can speak our language? We do not all speak our own language, even if our families have been born here for generations, in the same way. It is right that we should not all necessarily speak copybook English. I hope that the matter will be explored sensibly in Committee.
I should like to mention one point that I do not believe has been raised so far, although I was absent from the Chamber for some time, attending a meeting. It seems that the Bill creates a new class of statelessness for the children born to single foreign mothers who happen to be resident in this country. Under present law, a child can claim British citizenship if he or she is born to a foreign mother who is living in Britain at the time. Under the Bill, the child would not be able to do so even if the father was British.
By contrast, the child of a foreign woman married to a British citizen—the operative word is "married"—would be able to claim to be British by birth. This seems to complicate even more than it is already complicated the whole question of illegitimacy. It seems a further discrimination against children who are born outside marriage. That is shocking. The implication should not be allowed in the Bill, especially at a time when the Law Commission is preparing to publish its final proposals on illegitimacy, which, it is hoped, will call for the removal of all legal discrimination between those born within and outside marriage. This is a matter that the Government should clarify. It causes concern to organisations, both national and local, representing one-parent families.
In 1964 my hon. Friend and next-door neighbour the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) introduced a Bill that became the British Nationality Act 1964. The Bill, which was widely supported at the time, enabled the children of single British mothers, born abroad, to claim British citizenship if they would otherwise have been stateless. Ideally, the Bill that we are now debating should be amended to allow children born in this country to be British without causing worry and distress to their mothers, which the fear of their child being stateless will cause. At the very least, if we cannot achieve the ideal, the Bill should be amended to allow children born here to foreign mothers the automatic right to British citizenship if they want to claim it and if they would otherwise be stateless. I should like some clarification on this matter.
Hon. Members have spoken of the representations that they have received about the Bill from their constituents and national organisations. It is loudly and clearly understood, at least by Labour Members, that those within the ethnic minorities, black or brown, do not want the Bill in any shape or form. They recognise the need for a British Nationality Act of some kind but not one that is thought out in this way. In spite of all the papers and the well presented documents provided for hon. Members, the most moving that I received came from the Pakistan Muslim Association in my constituency. It is handwritten, as hon. Members sitting near me can see. It states:
It is with very great concern on behalf of the Muslim community that it is considered essential to put forward the feelings and restlessness of our community living in Barking regarding the proposed new British nationality law.
I hope that the Government will recognise that that anxiety and restlessness can do great damage to good race relations if the Bill becomes law. I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter.
It is not for me to comment in detail on the two specific criticisms made by the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson), but I should like to use one as an example of the dangers of exaggeration to which the Bill has been subjected. The hon. Lady mentioned fears about the effect of the English language test, but the concern that she legitimately raised was dealt with in paragraph 62 of the White Paper, which stated:
The intention would be to continue to take account of the age and general ability of the applicant… the Home Secretary should have power in special circumstances to dispense with the language requirement altogether.
That intention is reflected in schedule 1. The hon. Lady's fears are well taken care of.
Few of us would suggest that the Bill is without weaknesses or blemishes, and we hope that in Committee it can be improved. However, like many hon. Members, especially on the Conservative Benches, I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on grasping a nettle that for so long has been left growing in this wilderness of British law.
From 1948 onwards, through Governments of both complexions, our nationality law has developed into a morass—to mix my metaphors—that no other country would tolerate. We as politicians and our political predecessors must accept the ultimate responsibility. However, civil servants in the Home Office, many of whom are now retired, bear a major element of blame for allowing us to reach such a condition. We staggered on, year after year, decade after decade, knowing the nonsense that we were creating—the legacy of our imperial past and other historical problems.
The Labour Government also knew the problem well. It is my impression that they came to office in 1974 determined to put it right. They took a long look at the matter. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) was closely involved. The result was not action, but a Green Paper, which, although it took no action, covered the ground fairly and intelligently. To a large extent it now seems to have been desowned by Opposition spokesmen, although not by all Opposition Members.
This Government have had the courage, for they are renowned, to deal with the problem. It is a difficult act of delineation. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) pointed out that the mere act of defining citizenship necessitates drawing a line. We have to say "This side of the line or the other side of the line". Painful decisions have to be taken. Difficulties will be created in a highly complex area.
Sadly, the debate that has continued in the country has been singularly ill-informed. It is with great respect that I offer criticism to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench. I accept how complex and difficult this issue is, but the projection of Government policy in this area could have been more effective and clearer. Undoubtedly, for reasons good and bad, the atmosphere that has been developed, particularly in the immigrant communities, has been highly regrettable.
I speak not only from a background of living overseas in various parts of the Empire, but, I am glad to say, as one who has about 15,000 members of the ethnic community in his comstituency. I well know their concerns. I also know that most of those concerns are ill-founded. I recall one young man, a West Indian of about 19 years of age who was born in High Wycombe, asking me whether I knew that he and 20 per cent. of the people like him would see their fathers carried to the airport and deported. Of course, that is nonsense, but that is the climate that has been created.
Sadly, some of those who ought to know better have not played the part that they should have played in encouraging an intelligent, informed and balanced debate on an issue of such great difficulty. I recall a meeting that I and a few hon. Friends attended at the Commission for Racial Equality, at which we discussed the commission's paper on the Bill. It was submitted to the Home Office in October. We discussed that part of the document in which it warned about the problems of those who would be given British overseas citizenship. It said:
Some of them will have another citizenship or nationality, but others will have no right of abode in any country and some of their children may be born stateless. Many of them have direct and close connections with people lawfully resident in this country and their plight has been a constant source of racial tension.
Those are very serious words for a very serious situation. I therefore invited the experts at the commission to give me an example of the sorts of people that they had in mind. It took them some time, and having thought they gave the following example. They had in mind the offspring born in Malaysia of people who were themselves Malayans as were, who had served the Crown and had obtained through the mechanism that existed the right to British nationality. Their offspring were said to be those who would be damaged by this provision. I failed to see that it could create racial tension in Kuala Lumpur. It was not so.
This is, therefore, an area in which the greatest care must be exercised. Sadly, the greatest care was specifically not exercised by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), whose contribution tonight was the most disgraceful that it has been my misfortune to hear in nearly three years in this House. I beg the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), who is to wind up the debate for the Opposition, to pay no attention to his leader. I invite him to listen carefully instead to the number of constructive contributions from the Opposition Benches.
I mention in particular that by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) with whom, on many other issues, I frequently disagree. I acknowledge at once, however, the great depth of his knowledge on this subject and his balanced and measured contribution to the debate this evening. I hope that the many ideas he advanced can be explored in Committee.
That is the spirit in which we should approach the Bill. As many hon. Members have pointed out, we are talking about nationality. The nationality of this country is, perhaps more than anything else, an issue that must transcend the pettiness of party rivalry and of party gain—whether it is within the ethnic community or even within the ranks of one party—with the elbowing and struggling for advantage. It goes far beyond that. It is a subject with which we must all deal with the greatest responsibility. Many hon. Members have done that. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was the glaring exception.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central on his promotion and I look forward to his first speech from the Opposition Front Bench, but I beg him to ignore the voice at his shoulder and listen instead to the wiser voices of his other colleagues. We are dealing with an issue of the greatest sensitivity, which is important to all of us in a multiracial society. We must strive for an Act that will reflect the genuine will of the country and the genuine interests of all the people in this country, wherever they may have been born.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) and therefore I shall not follow him down the path that he chose to tread.
One major purpose of the Bill is to ease the task of immigration control in this country. Since that control is undeniably racialist and sexist, the Bill is inevitably tarred with the same brush—despite the honeyed words of the Home Secretary in moving the Second Reading. In its present form the Bill will alarm many in the black community in Britain and many more overseas who have so far had some hope of settling here.
Coming on top of the new racialist and sexist immigration rules that we debated a few months ago, the police dragnet raids for illegal immigrants, which net the innocent as well as the guilty, the acceptance by officialdom that black people should carry their passports to prove their eligibility for NHS treatment, and the tighter medical inspections proposed by the chief medical officer in a recent report to the Home Secretary, the Bill is a further blow to harmonious race relations in this country.
I am particularly concerned about the international implications. The Bill says nothing about civic rights and the obligations of citizenship. We are one of the few countries that do not link citizenship directly with civic rights and obligations, including the obligation to undertake military service. The concept of citizenship and nationality in the Bill is meaningless in terms of international law, and that ought to be put right in Committee.
There has been virtually no consultation with Commonwealth countries, particularly India and Malaysia, that have groups of people who will be adversely affected by the Bill. Furthermore, there has been no consultation with the people whose interests will be most adversely affected—those whose nationality status will be changed for the worse. They may have made representations, but the White Paper is coy about who has made representations or what those representations were. We know that most were unfavourable. The White Paper states:
British Overseas Citizenship in this context was seen as a second class citizenship, and concern was expressed that some children of British Overseas Citizens might be stateless.
The White Paper and the Bill contain no answer to the criticisms, so we must assume that the Government accept them as valid.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred to the position of the EEC. A declaration in the Treaty of Accession of January 1972 defines our nationals for the purpose of free movement of labour within the EEC, but that definition will shortly be out of date. Why is there no new definition in the Bill, particularly in clause 47? The Home Secretary said that discussions were going on with the EEC. The Government have had seven months since the publication of the White Paper in which to sort out this matter with the EEC. Why is it not defined in the Bill? What is to be the new definition? Further, will it require an amendment to the Treaty of Accession? If so, will such an amendment need to be made by Order in Council or under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972? If the Minister of State cannot answer these questions, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who has been here during most of the debate, will be able to help him.
The Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) implied at the beginning of the debate, represents a dishonourable chapter in the long saga of our retreat from our imperial responsibilities. It cuts our links with British citizens in the rest of the developing world at a time when our future as an industrial nation is increasingly bound up with the rest of the Third world. We are giving a damaging impression in the Bill, as at present drafted, to people throughout the world. It will be one more nail in the coffin of our reputation as a liberal world Power. Coming as it does on top of savage cuts in our overseas aid programme—cuts that are quite unprecedented among the industrial nations of the world—and on top of the large increases in overseas students' fees, the basic message from the Government to the rest of the world is "Stay away, we don't want you."
It is part of a pattern that one has seen during the 18 months of life of the Government—that we should conduct our own affairs to suit ourselves and no one else, and to hell with the outside world. That attitude is not merely unfortunate; it is potentially disastrous. The Bill is intellectually shoddy and morally disreputable, and I hope sincerely that the House will reject it tonight.
Just before the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) spoke, we had the contemptible display of the Government Whips rushing round, desperate to find speakers to take part in the debate. They apparently managed to get two of their Back Benchers to speak, one of whom had read clause 1 and no more and the other of whom had apparently not read the Bill at all. It is not right that on a Bill of this importance the Government should treat the House with such contempt.
I shall not give way. It is perfectly clear that the eyes of the world are on us in terms of the way in which we treat the Bill—more than in the case of most Bills that come before the House. The eyes of the world are on us partly because other nations want ro see whether we are treating people genuinely and equally as part of the multiracial society that we now are and partly because the Bill affects the futures of people living beyond the shores of this country.
I turn first to the impact on people living here. I accept that the Bill is not in all respects fully understood, but in one or two major respects it is well understood in this country, especially by people who will be particularly affected, namely, members of the black and Asian communities living here. They are quite aware that there are discriminatory elements in the Bill and that some of the people in our communities are threatened by its effect. They see it as setting the seal of approval on many of the racist immigration measures that we practise. The fears of people in our communities are genuine, because they are based upon an understanding of the serious effect that the Bill will have on them.
I do not have time to go through them all, but I shall mention one or two. In particular, I refer to one that has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions and has come before the House this evening—the position of children born here. In the White Paper the Government conceded that they saw some administrative and practical difficulties, but no one has explained to us how these administrative and practical difficulties are to be overcome.
Secondly, what will be the position of East African Asians who are now living here but are not yet settled here, and who have children born here? What will be the position of those children?
Thirdly, what will be the position of refugees from Cyprus who are living here, not settled in this country, and who have children born here?
The Government may argue that these are points of detail, which should come up before the Committee that will be dealing with the Bill, but I argue that they stem from a basic flaw in principle and that therefore we have the right to expect an answer.
Fourthly, cases in the courts such as the Zamir case, are changing the position of people who originally would have thought that in law they were settled here. What is to happen to children born of people whose position is put in doubt as a result of such cases?
Above all, these instances highlight the basic flaw of the Bill—in respect of which, again, the Government have not given a satisfactory answer—namely, that having established a new form of British citizenship it is then subdivided into two categories. One category comprises white people, who will retain the basic rights, and the other comprises people who happen to be mainly black or Asian, who will have lesser rights. That is surely unacceptable and it should be dropped from the Bill.
I refer briefly to the language test. Will the Government explain their intentions with regard to this? It may well play a key part in the future determination of naturalisation. I understand that at the moment the language test is not particularly onerous and is based upon a conversation with the police officer who calls. If he feels that the conversation is clearly understood, the test is passed. May we have an assurance that that will be the case in the future?
I support the plea that the "good character" test should be replaced by a "bad character" test—an objective test, which could be subject to a right of appeal. After all, even potential Members of Parliament, before being eligible to stand for the House, are subjected to something that I would describe as a "bad character" test. I do not see why something similar should not apply to people applying for naturalisation.
I turn to the impact of the Bill overseas. There can be scarcely a newspaper on the Asian sub-continent that has not expressed its concern and criticism about this measure. I quote from a leading article in The Times of India on Monday 19 January, under the headline "Racialist Measure":
A recent article in our columns on Britain's nationality bill said that the terms of the bill, when it is finally laid before parliament, would indicate 'how Britain now sees the moral obligations of an imperial past and its own multiracial future'. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the bill now introduced in Westminster shows that the British government does not wish to fulfil these obligations. Furthermore, it seems to feel that Britain's interests are best served by pandering to irrational fears about the 'influx' of non-white immigrants, when in fact the number coming in does not add up to more than the merest trickle.
That is but one among many items of press comment from the Asian sub-continent of which the Government Front Bench will be aware.
I turn finally to the position of British overseas citizens. I add my voice to those who have asked for Commonwealth consultation on this, because I believe that we are dodging an issue. Let us consider the position of people in Malaysia who at present have United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship and no other. They number, apparently, between 100,000 and 150,000. Do we have a responsibility to those individuals, or do we run the risk of making them stateless if the Malaysian Government refuse to accept the consequences of the Bill and do not grant their own citizenship to those people or to the next generation of such people? Surely we have a greater responsibility to people who have held United Kingdom and Colonies passports, and it is not a responsibility that we can easily duck.
Paragraph 110 of the White Paper states that
the Bill, by establishing a British Citizenship, will make available a ready definition by which those duties or entitlements may be re-defined in the future.
Do the Government intend to move in that direction? Do they intend to relate the holding of British citizenship in the future to a clearly defined set of duties and entitlements? If they do, when shall we be told what these duties and entitlements are?
The Bill contains too many reprehensible features to make it acceptable to this House. It has elements that are racially discriminatory. It has illogicality. It runs the risk of making a new generation of stateless people. I hope that the House will oppose it.
I want, first, to thank the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) for his remarks, but I fear that I might disappoint him.
I agree with many right hon. and hon. Members that the Bill is about only a part of nationality in the full sense of the word. Nationality and citizenship are concerned with the full relationship of the individual with the State—duties and responsibilities balanced by rights and privileges. But the Bill does not even mention those matters, even though there is an urgent need in Britain today to define the role of the individual within our constitutional structures.
The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) pointed out what many right hon. and hon. Members have noticed, namely, that the Bill, as printed, is entitled "Restricted British Nationality Bill". That can only be described as a Freudian printer's error, because it is a restricted Bill. It is restricted in clarity, compassion and justice.
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardiner) genuinely and sincerely wished that this was not a Bill to do with race and immigration. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I refer him to the Home Secretary's speech in Leicester on 7 April 1978, when he gave a long list of proposed measures that an incoming Conservative Government would enact and said:
A Conservative Government will therefore seek to introduce a new nationality law early in the next Parliament. This will remove some of the possible sources of future immigration.
The case is proved by that quotation as well as by the substance of the Bill. It is an immigration Bill, because it assumes all the way through that the only important aspect of nationality is simply whether a person can come into Britain.
That is an important aspect, of course, but it is not the only one. Nor is it the most important one. In many ways, the Bill devalues the British passport by treating it as little more than an admission ticket to Britain for those who are abroad, and a pass-out ticket for those born here who want to be able to get back when they go abroad.
The Opposition's first objection, which has been echoed by many right hon. and hon. Members, is that the Bill misses the opportunity to spell out the details of the contract between the British nation and its citizens.
We agree with the Government that a new nationality Bill is needed, but this is a shabby little immigration Bill. It is a poor substitute for what should have been proposed.
We shall oppose the Bill because it will create injustice for many individuals around the world—in this country and in others—and because we believe that it will do severe damage to the cause of racial harmony in this country.
There are a few of the Bill's provisions that the Opposition accept. It proposes, for example, that our surviving handful of colonies should have a separate citizenship—citizenship of the dependent territories. We would prefer each colony to have its own separate citizenship, but to have citizenship of the dependent territories, separate from British overseas citizenship, is a step forward. Although the issue has not been raised very fully in the debate, we endorse the views of the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Sir C. Fletcher-Cooke) about the need for separate citizenships for the remaining colonies.
The only exception to our general acceptance of citizenship of the dependent territories relates to Gibraltar. Gibraltar is in an anomalous position in that it is a colony that is part of the EEC. Gibraltar cannot be treated as just another colony, especially when and if Spain joins the Common Market.
We are, as the Government are, in touch with various Gibraltarian groups. I understand that Ministers and others representing all parties in the Gibraltarian House of Assembly are in London at the moment. We hope that a satisfactory solution for Gibraltar can be hammered out in Committee. We hope that the Government will table suitable amendments. If they do not, we certainly shall.
We agree with parts of the Bill. It is a curate's egg—good in parts. That is a good metaphor. Like an egg, if a nationality Bill is not good throughout, it is no good at all. We are glad that some of the suggestions in the Green Paper have not been adopted. I cannot prove it, but I believe that a Labour Government would have dropped all the proposals in the Green Paper that were thought to be racist.
Let us contrast that with the Government's actions. They have introduced further measures that were not advocated in the Green Paper. Let us take two of those measures. First, the idea that children born here should no longer automatically become British citizens was specifically ruled out in the Green Paper, but reintroduced in the Government's White Paper. It will have a deeply racist effect. The White Paper clearly states that the measure is intended to exclude the children of those not legally or permanently settled here, including the children of students, those on work permits and alleged illegal immigrants. Those whose immigration status is in some doubt will not know—if the Bill is enacted—whether their children are stateless. It may act as a disincentive to black pregnant women to attend ante-natal and post-natal care clinics and may have effects on the neo-natal and perinatal mortality rates.
It will be a bureaucratic nightmare for registrars if they have to determine the immigration status of every parent before issuing a birth certificate. As my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, registrars will tend to assume that white parents are more likely to meet the required conditions. As a result, they will be more insistent that black parents should produce documents.
If the nationality of a child is not fixed at registration, many children will grow up not knowing their nationality. Some may not realise that they are stateless until it is too late for them to do anything about it. There is an extra problem. The ever-widening definition by the courts of "illegal entry" means that a child who was eligible for citizenship at birth would later lose that citizenship if his or her parents were judged, retrospectively, to have entered illegally.
The full horror of the measure is illustrated in clause 1(2). I refer to the part that the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) did not quite reach. It says that an abandoned new-born baby will be deemed to be a British citizen. That means that parents who have any doubt about the nationality of their new baby can resolve that doubt only by leaving the child in a basket on the doorstep of the registrar of births, marriages and deaths.
We cannot accept that all this is necessary because of some alleged baby boom in the departure lounge—perhaps
I should say arrival lounge—of Heathrow airport. This mean little measure is desired—I quote from the White Paper—because:
The additional British entrants so created, with the right of abode here, would form a pool of considerable size and they would have little or no real connection with the United Kingdom.
A pool of considerable size already exists of those who have never seen this country, although they have full rights to come here. I refer to the patrials in the old Commonwealth whose grandfathers were British born. That pool is several million deep. Why have the Government not legislated to abolish their rights? The answer is that that group are mostly white. Why are the Government destroying the centuries-old principle of British law, namely, that a child born in Britain is British? They are doing so because the handful of babies involved—the tiny pool of which they are so afraid—is largely black. We have heard no other explanation.
It is proposed that citizenship by descent should be passed on only by those born in the United Kingdom, and not by those registered or naturalised in the United Kingdom. That was not even contemplated in the Green Paper, yet it is brazenly proposed in the White Paper and the Bill, without any explanation. It means that if a British couple born here go to work in the EEC—as they have a legal right to do—any children born there will be British.
But what is the position of a British couple who have lived here since childhood but are registered as British citizens because they were born, for example, in Trinidad? They and their patents have taken that conscious act of commitment to Britain. They have paid British taxes and observed British laws as British citizens for decades, but if they exercised their right to work in the EEC and had a child there, under the Bill the child would be stateless because the parents would be registered British citizens and would not be able to pass on their citizenship by descent.
Belgium and the Netherlands, for example, have not signed the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness. The Bill is creating a new and unnecessary category of what are literally second-class British citizens. The vast majority of registered British citizens are black. That is why we think that this part of the Bill is racist.
Those who now have the right in various ways to register as British citizens will lose those rights and will be able to apply only for naturalisation. That is discriminatory, because the majority of those who will lose their rights are black. The Conservative party manifesto stated:
We shall introduce a…British Nationality Act to define entitlement to British citizenship and to the right of abode in this country. It will not adversely affect the right of anyone now permanently settled here.
There are people settled here who, until the introduction of the Bill, had the right of registration. They also had a right, once they had registered, for their children, wherever they were born, to be British. Those rights will be removed. That pledge in the Conservative manifesto is broken by the Bill.
Discrimination is made worse because the Bill intends to preserve the arbitrary and secret way in which naturalisation decisions are taken. As more and more people have to go through the process, its iniquities become more outrageous. To adapt a famous parliamentary resolution, we believe that ministerial and Civil Service power in this area has grown, is growing and ought to be diminished. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have expressed the view that we want an open system, with objective tests and criteria for naturalisation, and a system of appeals against refusal.
The White Paper confirmed all our fears about the current system. On page 13 it says:
There can in the Government's view be no doubt that it would be generally offensive to public feeling if someone with recent criminal convictions were to be able to claim British Citizenship as a matter of course"—
I agree with that—
and the same would apply to people of dubious reputation in other ways.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) said, we do not trust Home Office Ministers to decide in secret whether our constituents are of "dubious reputation". We believe that Ministers might take into account matters such as trade union activity and involvement in various protest groups, which we regard as a perfectly legitimate exercise of democratic rights. This is an issue that must be brought in to the light of day. Ministers cannot pontificate about various matters being offensive to public feeling when in the same sentence they declare that they will not give the public any information on which to base those feelings.
The Home Secretary always looks puzzled—that is when he is paying attention—when we say that the Bill is sexist.
I will explain what we mean. The Bill removes some serious sexual Inequalities. It gives equal rights to women in the transmission of citizenship abroad by descent and by adoption in this country. We acknowledge that and we welcome it, but that makes it all the more regrettable that the Bill goes out of its way to create a new disadvantage for married women. At present, a non-citizen woman who marries a citizen man has an immediate and automatic right to register as a British citizen. The Bill proposes that in future she should merely be able to apply for naturalisation, which is at the discretion of the Home Secretary, and that she may apply only three years after the marriage. That means that a woman newly arrived here will not know for at least three years whether she is a citizen, even though she has established her family here and may have citizen children born here.
The justification for that—and it is being echoed from a sedentary position by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook)—is that it creates equality by putting women on the same footing as men. We do not accept that this levelling down process is any sort of progress. Taking rights away from women would not be acceptable, even if they had equality in every other sphere, which clearly they do not have.
There are many aspects of the proposed British citizenship that we cannot accept, but we support and welcome the Government's decision to allow dual nationality. That issue has been raised by several hon. Members, mainly on the Government Benches, but also by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), in terms of allegiance. I believe that the word "allegiance" has been used by those Members as a subtle, but clear, smear on the loyalty of black British people who still have another citizenship. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I ask them not to try to convince the House, but to come to the meetings of the West Indian ex-Service men's association, which thrives in London and in other parts of the country, and to tell those people that they are not loyal. Many of those people came halfway round the world to fight for a country that they had never seen. Many were wounded. Others lost friends and relatives. Many stayed on to live here and, as well as being British citizens, have the citizenship of the island from which they came.
I have already dealt with Gibraltar, as the hon. Gentleman would be aware if he had been listening.
If the hon. Members to whom I have referred manage to convince the West Indians, let the right hon. Member for Down, South then convince the families of the black British soldiers who have died on the streets in Northern Ireland.
We are broadly in support of citizenship of the dependent territories, but we are deeply opposed to British overseas citizenship—the third of the new categories of citizenship put forward here. It is little more than a British overboard citizenship by which we cast adrift the embarrassing jetsam of the Empire. These include people who were promised that, when the colonies in which they lived became independent, they would be able to keep a British passport and come to this country when they wanted to do so. They had that right taken away in 1968. The disadvantage that they suffered in 1968 is now being made even worse. They became known then as United Kingdom passport holders. Now even the passports that they hold are being taken away and replaced by worthless ones.
I say to those hon. Members who supported the 1968 Act that much has changed since then. I also say that just as the leader of the Labour Party voted against that Act, so did no fewer than three members of the present Cabinet. It would have been four before the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was butchered to make a Finchley new year holiday. The Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Lord Privy Seal—whose name, spelt wrongly, appears on the back of the Bill; another printer's error—voted against the Act. I am sorry that the Lord Privy Seal is not present. I am sure that it is because he has engagements elsewhere. I am not being critical, but in Committee at that time he said:
I voted against the Bill last night because I thought that it treated the Kenya Asians uniquely badly."—[Official Report, 28 February 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1585.]
Why does he not think the same of this Bill? Perhaps he will tell us in Committee. As I said, a lot has changed since 1968, just as all Members acknowledge that a lot has changed since 1948 when a Labour Government passed the Act that we are about to replace.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Down, South made a profound Second Reading speech, but I felt that it was a speech which, with hindsight, he would have liked to make on the 1948 Bill, and that he was regretting the decision taken then rather than commenting in detail on the decision being proposed now.
I do, indeed, regret that I was not in my place in the House in 1948 to oppose the Bill, but I opposed it as best I could in the advice that I then tendered to the Conservative Party against supporting it.
And they are still ignoring it. In this country there is now a greater maturity and understanding about race relations and immigration. The East African Asians, whose arrival was feared in 1968, have proved to be model citizens—hard-working and law-abiding. In many of our cities, they alone have the tenacity and commitment to keep open corner shops, sub-post offices and many other small firms.
Let me make it quite clear that we do not suggest—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) was not suggesting—that every person who would become a British overseas citizen under the Bill should be a full British citizen with entry rights. Most of the 1·5 million in that category are already citizens of the country in which they live. As many hon. Members have said, that country is Malaysia. Those people have a right to live somewhere. Their children will have that nationality, too. For them, a British overseas citizenship passport would be just a useless curio to remind them of the last days of the Raj. It would not give them any rights. It would afford them British consular protection if they get into trouble when they travelled but they would not be able to use it as a travel document in the first place. We believe that the new British overseas citizenship is really old statelessness writ large.
We are primarily concerned about those United Kingdom passport holders—those potential British overseas citizens—who have no other nationality, with no right to live anywhere, whose children will be stateless under this Bill, because this citizenship cannot be transmitted.
Let me give an example to the hon. Member for Wycombe, who said that the Commission for Racial Equality was not able to give him specific examples. In Malawi, where there is purely the jus sanguinis—the transmission of citizenship by descent—it is probable that children of East African Asians who have only British overseas citizenship will be stateless. Those people total about 150,000. The Government should mount a major campaign to persuade the Government of each country where they live to offer them citizenship and full rights there. There may have to be a full Commonwealth conference if bilateral discussions fail to produce a solution. A major diplomatic initiative could resolve this problem fairly for most of the people. My hon. Friend the Member for York endorsed the view of the Front Bench in saying that that was brave. We recognise his own bravery on this and many other race relations issues in the past.
Some people will not be covered by the Bill. It is impossible to say how many, but if they have no legal right to live anywhere, and if their children will be stateless, we should give them the full British citizenship passport with rights of entry.
The previous Tory Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), showed great magnanimity by allowing in the Ugandan Asians expelled by Amin. We acknowledge that. The current Prime Minister agreed last year—with some persuasion from the Foreign Secretary—to take in 10,000 Vietnamese boat people. Could not the Home Secretary persuade her to act with even greater magnanimity and statesmanship on this issue? But that will not happen. We do not believe that the Home Secretary will even try to persuade his Cabinet colleagues on this issue.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) said, the Government seem to be determined to continue their policy of appeasing the racists in their ranks and in the country. We have heard from some of those hon. Members tonight. Some gloated over the Bill and some said that it was not quite racist enough. That was the policy of the Tory Party before the general election. There were remarks about "swamping", which have never been withdrawn by the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister. That is the Tory Party's policy, as shown by the new immigration rules and the Bill.
The Tories pretend to find justification by claiming that only rigid control of the entry of black immigrants will enable racial harmony to develop in Britain. They do not realise that by institutionalising racism in our immigration system they are sanctioning the views of those who want to entrench it in all our other institutions.
It is impossible for lasting progress on eliminating discrimination to be made within British society if the rules for admission to that society are based on the racial origin of the applicants.
Immigration control is necessary for a small, heavily populated island. But what we must ensure, what we can ensure, and what the Bill does not ensure, is that the decision about who can come in and who cannot is not taken on the basis of race or sex. We must stop playing the numbers game. We believe that racial tension in this country is not caused by the number of black faces; it is caused by the number of racists.
I ask the Government tonight to consider the road that they are going down by continuing to appease the racists. I wish that they would realise that, instead of pandering to what we sincerely believe to be a racist few, they should give a lead to the majority, black and white, who want to live in harmony.
The Bill represents a tragically missed opportunity. It could have provided the basis for a newly found British unity, in which differences of race were seen not as a problem to be swept under the carpet, but as a strength of British society, in which the variety of cultures and ethnic origins was seen for what it is—a great national asset to be shared by all and to be used for the good of all. A good nationality Bill could be the foundation of a successful and united British society, yet the Government have chosen to lay that foundation stone on the treacherous quicksand of racism and sexism instead of on the bedrock of equality.
I am always grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his sedentary comments, which put another nail in the coffin of the theory of Aryan superiority.
I believe that the Home Secretary and his fellow Ministers do not fully realise the effects of the Bill. They will be made to realise them, not particularly by our speeches, but by the uproar of protest that is starting in this country, not only from black groups, but from all organisations concerned about equality, harmony and decency. The British Council of Churches and the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice have already begun that campaign.
Our criticism is fundamental, but it is not just destructive. We have an alternative policy. The Bill should have introduced a citizenship based on non-discrimination on grounds of sex and race, on the safeguarding of family life, and on a judicial framework preventing arbitrary administrative action. That citizenship—
I shall not give way. I always prefer the hon. Gentleman's comments from a sedentary position. That citizenship could then have become the basis of a fair immigration policy, with all citizens having the right of entry.
The Bill could still be improved out of all recognition if the following changes were made. I list the six most important ones: first, preservation for their lifetime of the entitlement of many Commonwealth citizens living here to register as British citizens; secondly, objective criteria for granting nationality and a right of appeal against refusal; thirdly, a guarantee that no child could be born stateless as a result of the Bill; fourthly, a commitment to continue the existing civic rights of Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident here; fifthly, a citizen's right to a passport, which none of us has at present; sixthly, that all children born in Britain should automatically be British. We shall press for these changes in Committee.
The House carries a heavy responsibility if we get this wrong, because a nationality Bill lasts for a generation. It is worth noting that the first children to be born when this measure comes into force in January 1982 will also be the first Britons to reach adulthood when a new century, a new millennium, begins. They will be the first new British citizens of the twenty-first century. We owe it to them to vote against the Bill, so that the Government will be forced to bring forward a nationality Bill which those children—our children—and our children's children deserve.
I think that everyone will agree that we have had not only a long and interesting debate but a most important one. The House will understand that I cannot possibly answer every point that has been raised during the course of the debate, but I shall do my best to cover the ground and deal with the most important points.
I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) on his promotion and, I think it would be fair to say, on a certain competence. I do not congratulate him on the ranting tone that he introduced into his speech when dealing with racism. I utterly refute the allegations of racism that he made. They are totally contrary to all of my beliefs.
This has been a fascinating debate, which has ranged from the philosophical—as we would expect from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and many others who have talked about fundamental concepts—to the severely practical. What I would say is that by and large the tone of the debate has been reasonable. The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) asked us to adopt a constructive approach to this subject. The hon. Member for Lambeth, Central made the important point that we are talking about a measure that will have to endure for at least a generation. It may well endure long beyond that. It is, therefore, correct that we should approach this matter in a constructive way.
The Home Secretary made it clear that it is our intention to be constructive. Certainly in Committee I shall attempt to be. The one thing that has stood out as an exception to any idea of a constructive approach was the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). He went out of his way to defeat, so far as he could, the chances of a constructive approach. He declared his intransigent, unalterable opposition. It seemed from what he said that whatever we did, and whatever happened in Committee, he would still oppose the Bill tooth and nail, to the best of his ability.
The House realised that it was listening to a mixture of bluster and wriggling on the part of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. I could not help thinking that those of us who watched or heard the right hon. Gentleman at the latest Labour Party conference know that he has had plenty of practice at blustering and wriggling. We saw him blustering and wriggling in the way that he tried to approach the question of the Green Paper. He pretended that the ideas put forward in the Labour Party's Green Paper were merely for discussion. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) destroyed that point when he said that if the ideas were racialist and unacceptable they should not have been put forward for discussion in the Green Paper.
Moreover, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that at every point we took the hardest options of those put forward in the Green Paper, with one exception. As the Home Secretary made clear, we certainly did not take the hardest option on citizenship by marriage. To give another example, we did not follow the Labour Party in tinkering with the idea of abandoning dual citizenship. That shows clearly what weight to attach to what the right hon. Gentleman says.
The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that the right of children of British citizens born abroad to acquire citizenship after three years was by courtesy of the Home Secretary. Again he is wrong. It is an entitlement in the Bill. He wriggled again about the whole question of objective tests, about security, and about my comments on the appeals system in relation to immigration. But I will admit that he was bold about one thing, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) pointed out. He was bold, although his boldness seemed to be qualified by the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central, in his willingness, if need be, to admit to this country all British overseas citizens, although at the same time, for some mysterious reason, he also said that the Opposition would retain the voucher system.
We have to find a way of solving this problem which will endure—the problem of how to find a citizenship structure for our times. We have to find a way out, and I want now to turn to some of the more serious arguments made in the debate.
One argument, which has also been put forward by outside bodies, is that the Bill should contain some sort of statement on rights and duties. A number of hon. Members argued for that, and it has also been asked for by the churches. But I ask the House to consider what this would mean in practice.
It is a fact that this kind of generalised statement is contrary to the whole style of English law-making today. There is the old Bill of Rights problem, for example, if I may put it in those terms—the fact that no Parliament can bind its successors. But for years past in drawing up our statutes we have taken the view that there is no point in having these great generalisations, however much we may agree with them. What we try to do in our laws is to be precise; we try to meet the problems that actually exist.
Again, is there any real reason to add to the Bill a series of provisions that are perfectly well covered in other statutes? "Abode" is defined in the Bill, but other rights and duties, civic rights and employment, commercial definition and tax benefits, are contained in a whole series of laws, ranging from the Act of Settlement of 1701 to the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970. They are all in the statute book. What point is there in repeating them in this new legislation? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde dealt with this point very well.
The Bill therefore says nothing about civic rights and it proposes no changes in them, but of course we accept and know that our country and our citizenship will be made up by citizens of many ethnic backgrounds. There can be no doubt about that.
On one point in the debate there was agreement that our present pattern of citizenship is clearly out of date. It reflects an imperial idea, which no longer exists. The idea of a common citizenship, with freedom of movement within territories, really came to an end with the era of decolonisation, and more particularly with the introduction of restrictions on Commonwealth and colonial immigration into this country nearly 20 years ago.
This led to what the Labour Government's Green Paper, on page 4, called the
main defect in our present law. This is that our present citizenship Of the United Kingdom and Colonies, as its name implies, relates both to the United Kingdom and overseas territories. It does not identify those who belong to this country and have the right to live and enter here freely; in consequence it prevents the United Kingdom from basing its immigration policies on citizenship. Our citizenship is in these respects different from the citizenship of many other countries, including our partners in the European Community.
That is the particular weakness of the present scheme. It does not rest on a British citizenship that confers the right, of abode on those who hold it. Nor does it convey the status of those who belong to our dependent territories.
Those who go into our third category, of British overseas citizenship, will also recognise that citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies hardly describes their present situation, when they may not be admitted to either the United Kingdom or the colonies. So the break-up of the United Kingdom and Colonies into the three new categories therefore broadly reflects what has happened.
It is entirely right that those who at present have United Kingdom and Colonies or British-protected person status without abode should not be left high and dry in terms of citizenship, but it does not make sense that this link should be perpetuated from generation to generation. As my right hon. Friend made clear, we shall continue to take the United Kingdom passport holder voucher holders under the present scheme. In due course, however, British overseas citizenship will die out and the successors of those who held it will expect to belong to the countries where they live. It is worth adding that the present CUKC status of those who will become British overseas citizens also cannot be transmitted indefinitely by descent except in those cases where they live in foreign countries and can use consular registration. British overseas citizenship is essentially the same as that referred to in the Labour Party's Green Paper scheme for British overseas citizens without abode. Any attempt to argue otherwise can easily be disproved.
I turn to what has been an important part of the debate, citizenship of the British Dependent Territories. A number of my hon. Friends raised important points. As expected, arguments for special treatment of one sort or another on behalf of individual territories were put forward. Some hon. Members asked for separate citizenship for each territory. The Government recognise the strength of these sentiments. We affirm our commitment to the territories and the great importance of maintaining our links with them. For nationality, however, we believe that the scheme proposed in the Bill is the most satisfactory way of dealing with the subject. No doubt the first choice of the dependencies generally would be to retain a common citizenship with that of the people of the United Kingdom itself, if that was possible. If we are to have a distinctive citizenship for the United Kingdom, carrying with it the right of abode in the United Kingdom, there must be other arrangements for the dependencies.
We believe that the citizenship for the dependencies should be a composite one. In reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir C. Fletcher-Cooke), I do not believe that it would be satisfactory to give each dependency its own citizenship. I doubt whether many dependencies would wish to have their own separate status. My hon. and learned Friend must recognise that some of them are very small countries. The idea of giving them citizenship would pose considerable problems. The proposed citizenship emphasises the British connection, which is basically what the dependencies want.
Will it be the case, as now, that these colonies will be issued with a passport that says "British Dependent Territories (Hong Kong)" or "British Dependent Territories (Anguilla)"? If that is so, is there any difficulty in giving them an Anguillan passport or a Hong Kong passport?
I shall return to the question of how we see the passport evolving under the new scheme.
I wish to refer to Gibraltar, a subject raised by a number of hon. Members, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) and also the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart). They referred, understandably, to the close link—all share the sentiment—between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom and asked that Gibraltarians should become British citizens instead of, or in addition to, being citizens of a British Dependent Territory.
We have considered carefully the representations received to this effect. We recognise the strength of these sentiments and sympathise with them. However, for the reasons given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary we have concluded that citizenship of the dependent territories should apply in a uniform way throughout those territories. I want to refute completely the suggestion that citizenship of the British Dependent Territories is a second-class citizenship. It is a parallel citizenship. It does not materially affect the present position of Gibraltarians in relation to the United Kingdom. The rights arising from Gibraltar's membership of the European Community will not be affected by the Bill. Nor is there any question in present circumstances of the administrative concession for entry into the United Kingdom, arising from the unique circumstances of Gibraltar, being withdrawn.
As the House might expect, my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) spoke of his special concern for the problems of Hong Kong, about which he knows so much. He stressed the desire of the people of Hong Kong to contribute to the links with the United Kingdom. He asked for an assurance that there was no hidden motive behind the Bill. I am glad to give that assurance. I stress that the proposals are in no way directed particularly at Hong Kong. As my right hon. Friend reaffirmed, the proposed legislation is in no way intended to weaken our links, to which we attach great importance.
My hon. Friend asked particularly that the terms of schedule 1, which deals with naturalisation, should be carefully examined in Committee. We can, of course, examine the matter in Committee. My hon. Friend also asked that the Government should endeavour to avoid any stricter entry requirements to foreign countries being imposed on citizens of British Dependent Territories as a result of the proposals. We should certainly press any such countries to ensure that existing freedom of travel is maintained.
The hon. Member for York asked about passports. It is envisaged that, as at present, all passports will bear the inscription "British passport" on the front cover, no matter where they are issued. Passports issued in the dependencies will, again as at present, additionally bear the name of the issuing dependency on the front cover. The citizenship or status of the holder will appear on page 1 of the passport.
All passports will be marked "British passport" on the front cover. Where they refer to a dependency, they will carry the name of the dependency. If there is any uncertainty remaining, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.
I want now to deal with another important point that featured prominently in the debate. We have been accused of racism. I reiterate that that is a ridiculous claim. Clause 1 makes a substantial change to the automatic acquisition of British citizenship by birth in the United Kingdom. The new provision has been attacked on various grounds. We recognised in the White Paper that there were practical difficulties to be overcome.
Nevertheless, there are strong arguments in favour of confining the acquisition of citizenship by birth to children who have parents who really belong to the United Kingdom, in the sense of either being British citizens or being settled here. The present arrangements mean that citizenship is acquired by many children whose parents are here only temporarily, as students or visitors, for example, or who are working here for short periods or are here illegally. Any child who obtains our citizenship in this way and then leaves with his parents will at present transmit that citizenship in due course to his own children born abroad. With air travel and much greater mobility, the situation today is very different from that which existed when concepts like jus soli grew up. The arguments for continuing to confer citizenship in the present indiscriminate manner are clearly weak.
Let me say, too, that although we have hitherto adopted the so-called jus soli or automatic entitlement to citizenship by birth, continental countries have generally adopted the jus sanguinis, which means that citizenship is conferred on those born in the country concerned only if they have a parent who is a citizen. We are not, however, proposing to go as far as that. The child of someone lawfully settled here will be eligible for British citizenship by birth.
There is no intention of requiring proof that a child is entitled to citizenship when registration of birth takes place. There is no question of someone walking in the footsteps of the registration officer in the hospital asking people that sort of question. The remarks of the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central about perinatal mortality are therefore clearly even more absurd than they seemed at the time that he made them. We are a signatory to the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness, and that will have an important bearing on any problems that might arise from this provision.
I made it clear that the matter could be handled in one of two ways. If it is not to be done at birth by the registrar, how shall we avoid the situation in which many children will grow up with themselves and their parents not knowing their nationality, or whether they are stateless? When will it be done?
In many cases there is no special reason why it should be examined, but it may happen when the child reaches the stage of requiring a passport, although even there we shall basically be relying on the declarations of applicants for passports and their parents, and on those who act as sponsors to passport holders. I repeat that we realise that there are difficulties. I believe that in Committee I shall be able to explain how we intend to resolve these difficulties, and I believe that our scheme will work.
In designing our citizenship we are clearly looking for some kind of commitment on the part of those who seek to acquire it. Citizenship is a mixture of rights and duties. The country that grants it needs to protect those to whom it gives it, but at the same time the citizen has obligations to the country of his choice. Thus, we are looking for commitment in the proposal that those who have our citizenship but were not born here will not automatically be able to transmit citizenship to their children if they are born overseas, although Crown servants whose commitment is obvious will be able to do so.
Once a minor born in such circumstances returns to the United Kingdom with his parents for a period of three years he will be entitled to acquire citizenship. I know that there is concern about the problem of people working for firms abroad. Clause 3(3)(a) enables a child born overseas to be registered within one year of its birth if one of its parents is a British citizen working full-time for a company or association established in the United Kingdom. Subsection (3)(b) goes a stage further and extends the right to register a child in this way if one of the parents is working in a firm that is established outside the United Kingdom, provided that the employee is on secondment from the United Kingdom-based firm.
I recognise that some people feel that we ought to go still further and extend the right to register children within a year of their birth in any case where a British citizen is working abroad. I am not convinced that that should be done, since it might well involve building up large numbers of citizens born overseas whose future is not demonstrably with the United Kingdom. However, in many cases the new provisions for transmission of citizenship for women will ensure that the children are British citizens. There is also the three years return provision, and in exceptional cases there is a discretion to register any minor under clause 3(1). That is likely to be used where the child's future clearly lies with the United Kingdom.
Hon. Members have particularly asked about the transmission of our citizenship to children born overseas to citizens by grant, that is to say, by naturalisation and registration. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) was one. It may be that in some cases children are born overseas for very good reasons. For example, as has been pointed out, a woman may wish to return to her parents' home to have her baby, or the father may be working overseas temporarily. Clause 3(5) allows for that. It provides a perfectly adequate safeguard for any child who comes to this country and lives here with his parents for three years. By and large, however, we have felt that people who have been granted our citizenship after a stay here and later go overseas to live, other than for employment by a British organisation, and who do not return to live in the United Kingdom, with their children born overseas, do not seem to show the commitment to our country that was implicit in their acquisition of citizenship. The citizenship of consular registration in foreign countries alone is clearly anomalous.
Having listened closely to the debate and the discussions outside, I am aware of the strong feelings aroused by the difficult question of citizenship by descent. We wish to approach the matter constructively in Committee—even though Labour Members may not wish to do so—and no doubt it is one matter that we can thrash out then.
I turn to the acquisition of citizenship by Commonwealth citizens. The Bill will make a formal reality of what is already, in effect, becoming the case, namely, that Commonwealth citizens will as a rule go through the same process of acquisition of citizenship as will foreigners, though there are reasonable transitional provisions for those who have a special position in that respect—wives and Commonwealth citizens settled here before 1973.
The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) raised that point. The House will realise that for the past eight years Commonwealth citizens who have settled in this country and have wished to apply for citizenship have had to go through virtually the same procedure as the alien has had to go through for naturalisation. We are providing that Commonwealth citizens who had an entitlement to be registered under the nationality law before it was amended by the Immigration Act shall continue to have the right to apply for, and be granted, registration, provided that they apply within two years of the new Acts coming into force.
As the right to apply is already limited to those who were settled here before 1973, it will be clear that anyone who has the right has already had a great deal of time in which to decide whether to take advantage of it. By the time the Act comes into force and the two-year period begins, he will have had considerably longer. We think it reasonable that the time for taking up the entitlement should be limited, as proposed. I should also inform the hon. Member for Preston, South—as he asked specifically about this—that nothing in the Bill affects the ability of dependants to come to this country.
Foreigners seeking naturalisation have long had to pass the tests of language, good character, residence and intention to live here. There is nothing discriminatory in applying the tests to Commonwealth citizens. The power of the Home Secretary to refuse citizenship on those grounds, without right of appeal, is also an old one and does not seem to produce many accusations of injustice. How many problems has the hon. Member for Preston, South had on that score?
We are looking for commitment as well as convenience, and that is why we will normally ask of those who positively seek our citizenship that they can speak our language and intend to make their home in this country. To speak a country's language seems necessary if one is to play a full part as a citizen. We recognise, as is clear in the Bill, that the old and the handicapped may not be able to pick up a new language, and we shall treat them exceptionally. I should tell the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) that no change in the fairly easy-going existing language test is proposed.
I said that I would try to cover as many points as I could. I know that there are some that I have not had time to tackle. Let me make a final point. Our aim is to produce a piece of legislation that will endure. It is said that it will create uncertainty. That is not so. In particular, the new status of "British citizen" is a far more clear-cut definition of the right to be here and to belong to our community than is the existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, with right of abode.
Moreover, no one who is lawfully here will lose the right to be here as a result of the Bill. Those who are settled here but do not choose to acquire our citizenship will, of course, continue to be able to live here.
I firmly believe that, when our critics look back at the Bill in five or 10 years' time, nearly all of them, if they are honest, will find themselves saying "It was not such a bad Bill after all. It made us, for the first time, British citizens."
We have had the guts to bring forward this long-needed measure. I call on the House to give it a Second Reading.
|Division No. 57]||[12.00|
|Adley, Robert||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Alexander, Richard||Bowden, Andrew|
|Alison, Michael||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Ancram, Michael||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Arnold, Tom||Bright, Graham|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston N)||Brinton, Tim|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone)||Brittan, Leon|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Brocklebank-Fowler, C.|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Bendall, Vivian||Brotherton, Michael|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Brown, M. (Brigg and Scun)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Best, Keith||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Budgen, Nick|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Blackburn, John||Burden, Sir Frederick|
|Blaker, Peter||Butcher, John|
|Body, Richard||Carlisle, John (Luton West)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Hooson, Tom|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hordern, Peter|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hurd, Hon Douglas|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Cope, John||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Corrie, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Kellet-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kimball, Marcus|
|Crouch, David||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Knox, David|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lamont, Norman|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Lang, Ian|
|Dover, Denshore||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Latham, Michael|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Durant, Tony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lee, John|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||LeMarchant, Spencer|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Eggar, Tim||Lester Jim (Beeston)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Emery, Peter||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Loveridge, John|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Luce, Richard|
|Farr, John||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Fell, Anthony||McCrindle, Robert|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||MacGregor, John|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Forman, Nigel||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Madel, David|
|Fox, Marcus||Major, John|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Marland, Paul|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Marlow, Tony|
|Fry, Peter||Marshall Michael (Arundel)|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mates, Michael|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mawby, Ray|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mellor, David|
|Gorst, John||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gow, Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Gray, Hamish||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Greenway, Harry||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)||Moate, Roger|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Monro, Hector|
|Grist, Ian||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Grylls, Michael||Moore, John|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Morgan, Geraint|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hannam, John||Mudd, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Murphy, Christopher|
|Hastings, Stephen||Myles, David|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Needham, Richard|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Nelson, Anthony|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Neubert, Michael|
|Heddle, John||Newton, Tony|
|Henderson, Barry||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hicks, Robert||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Stanley, John|
|Parris, Matthew||Steen, Anthony|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Stevens, Martin|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Pawsey, James||Stokes, John|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Tapsell, Peter|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Porter, Barry||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Thompson, Donald|
|Proctor, K, Harvey||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Raison, Timothy||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Trotter, Neville|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Renton, Tim||Viggers, Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Waddington, David|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wakeham, John|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Waller, Gary|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||Walters, Dennis|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Ward, John|
|Rossi, Hugh||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rost, Peter||Watson, John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Scott, Nicholas||Wells, Bowen|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wheeler, John|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Shepherd, Richard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Shersby, Michael||Wilkinson, John|
|Silvester, Fred||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|Sims, Roger||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Wolfson, Mark|
|Speed, Keith||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Spence, John||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sproat Ian||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Squire, Robin||Mr. Anthony Berry.|
|Abse, Leo||Cartwright, John|
|Adams, Allen||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)|
|Allaun, Frank||Cohen, Stanley|
|Alton, David||Coleman, Donald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Conlan, Bernard|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cook, Robin F.|
|Ashton, Joe||Cowans, Harry|
|Atkinson, N. (H'gey,)||Craigen, J. M.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Crowther, J. S.|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Cryer, Bob|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Beith, A. J.||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)||Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davidson, Arthur|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bradley, Tom||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Deakins, Eric|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Dewar, Donald|
|Buchan, Norman||Dixon, Donald|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Dobson, Frank|
|Campbell, Ian||Dormand, Jack|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Douglas, Dick|
|Canavan, Dennis||Douglas-Mann, Bruce|
|Cant, R. B.||Dubs, Alfred|
|Carmichael, Neil||Dunn, James A.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Dunnett, Jack|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Magee, Bryan|
|Eadie, Alex||Marks, Kenneth|
|Eastham, Ken||Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Maxton, John|
|Ewing, Harry||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Faulds, Andrew||Meacher, Michael|
|Field, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Fitt, Gerard||Mikardo, Ian|
|Flannery, Martin||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Foster, Derek||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Newens Stanley|
|Freud, Clement||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Ogden, Eric|
|George, Bruce||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||O'Neill, Martin|
|Ginsburg, David||Orme, Rt Hon stanley|
|Golding, John||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Gourlay, Harry||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Graham, Ted||Palmer, Arthur|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Park, George|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Parker, John|
|Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)||Parry, Robert|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Pendry, Tom|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Penhaligon, David|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Haynes, Frank||Prescott, John|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Race, Reg|
|Home Robertson, John||Radice, Giles|
|Homewood, William||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Hooley, Frank||Richardson, Jo|
|Horam, John||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D.||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Howells, Geraint||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Huckfield, Les||Roberts, Gwilym (Connock)|
|Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.||Robertson, George|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Rooker, J. W.|
|John, Brynmor||Roper, John|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Ryman, John|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Sever, John|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Sheerman, Barry|
|Kerr, Russell||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Shore, Mrs Renée|
|Lambie, David||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Lamond, James||Silverman, Julius|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Skinner, Dennis|
|Leighton, Ronald||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Litherland, Robert||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Stoddart, David|
|McCartney, Hugh||Stott, Roger|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Strange, Gavin|
|McElhone, Frank||Straw, Jack|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|McKelvey, William||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Tilley, John||Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Torney, Tom||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Wainwright, R. (Colne V)||Winnick, David|
|Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)||Woodall, Alec|
|Watkins, David||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Weetch, Ken||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Welsh, Michael||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|White, Frank R.|
|White, J. (G'gow Pollok)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Mr. George Morton and|
|Whitlock, William||Mr. James Tinn.|
|Division No. 58]||[12.14 am|
|Abse, Leo||Dubs, Alfred|
|Adams, Allen||Dunn, James A.|
|Allaun, Frank||Dunnett, Jack|
|Alton, David||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Eadie, Alex|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Eastham, Ken|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Ellis, R. (NED' bysh're)|
|Ashton, Joe||English, Michael|
|Atkinson, N. (H'gey,)||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ewing, Harry|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Field, Frank|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Fitt, Gerard|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Flannery, Matrin|
|Bradley, Tom||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Ford, Ben|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Foster, Derek|
|Buchan, Norman||Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'W'd)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Campbell, Ian||Freud, Clement|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Garret, John (Norwich S)|
|Canavan, Dennis||George, Bruce|
|Cant, R. B.||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ginsburg, David|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Golding, John|
|Cartwright, John||Gourlay, Harry|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Graham, Ted|
|Cohen, Stanley||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Coleman, Donald||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Cook, Robin F.||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Cowans, Harry||Hattersley, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Craigen, J. M.||Haynes, Frank|
|Crowther, J. S.||Healey Rt Hon Roy|
|Cryer, Bob||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Home Robertson, John|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Homewood, William|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)||Hooley, Frank|
|Davidson, Arthur||Horam, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Howell, Rt Hon D.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howells, Geraint|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Huckfield, Les|
|Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Hudson, Davies, Gwilym E.|
|Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Dewar, Donald||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Dixon, Donald||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Dobson, Frank||John, Brynmor|
|Dormand, Jack||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Douglas, Dick||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Robertson, George|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Lambie, David||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Lamond, James||Rooker, J. W.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Leighton, Ronald||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ryman, John|
|Litherland, Robert||Sever, John|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McDonald, DrOonagh||Shore, Mrs Renée|
|McElhone, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|McKelvey, William||Silverman, Julius|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Skinner, Dennis|
|Maclennan, Robert||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Spearing, Nigel|
|McTaggart, Robert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Magee, Bryan||Stallard, A. W.|
|Marks, Kenneth||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Stoddart, David|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Stott, Roger|
|Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)||Strang, Gavin|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Straw, Jack|
|Maxton, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Solon Itchen)||Throne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Tilley, John|
|Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)||Tinn, James|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Torney, Tom|
|Morton, George||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)|
|Newens, Stanley||Wainwright, R. (Colne V)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)|
|Ogden, Eric||Watkins, David|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Weetch, Ken|
|O'Neill, Martin||Welsh, Michael|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||White, Frank R.|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Palmer, Arthur||Whitlock, William|
|Park, George||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Parker, John||Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Parry, Robert||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Pendry, Tom||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Penhaligon, David||Winnick, David|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)||Woodall, Alec|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Prescott, John||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Radice, Giles||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)||Mr. Austin Mitchell and|
|Richardson, Jo||Mr. Hugh McCartney|
|Adley, Robert||Bendall, Vivian|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Benyon, Thomas (A'don)|
|Alexander, Richard||Benyon, W. (Buckingham)|
|Alison, Michael||Best, Keith|
|Ancram, Michael||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Arnold, Tom||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston N)||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone)||Blackburn, John|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Blaker, Peter|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Body, Richard|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Greenway, Harry|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Griffiths, Peter Portsm' th N)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Grist, Ian|
|Bradford, Rev R.||Grylls, Michael|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Bright, Graham||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Brinton, Tim||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Brittan, Leon||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Hannam, John|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brown, M. (Briggand Scun)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Budgen, Nick||Heddle, John|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Henderson, Barry|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Butcher, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Hooson, Tom|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hordern, Peter|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hurd, Hon Douglas|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Cope, John||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Corrie, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine,|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kimball, Marcus|
|Crouch, David||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Knox, David|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lamont, Norman|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Lang, Ian|
|Dover, Denshore||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Latham, Michael|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Durant, Tony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lee, John|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||LeMarchant, Spencer|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Eggar, Tim||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Emery, Peter||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Loveridge, John|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Luce, Richard|
|Farr, John||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Fell, Anthony||McCrindle, Robert|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||MacGregor, John|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Mackay, John (Argyll)|
|Fletcher, A. (Ed 'nb'gh N)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles||Mc Nair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Forman, Nigel||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Madel, David|
|Fox, Marcus||Major, John|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Marland, Paul|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Marlow, Tony|
|Fry, Peter||Marshall Michael (Arundel)|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mates, Michael|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mawby, Ray|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mellor, David|
|Gorst, John||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gow, Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Gray, Hamish||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Shersby, Michael|
|Moate, Roger||Silvester, Fred|
|Monro, Hector||Sims, Roger|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Moore, John||Speed, Keith|
|Morgan, Geraint||Spence, John|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Sproat, Ian|
|Mudd, David||Squire, Robin|
|Murphy, Christopher||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Myles, David||Stanley, John|
|Neale, Gerrard||Steen, Anthony|
|Needham, Richard||Stevens, Martin|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Neubert, Michael||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Newton, Tony||Stokes, John|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Onslow, Cranley||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Page, Richard (SE Herts)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Parris, Matthew||Thompson, Donald|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Pawsey, James||Trotter, Neville|
|Percival, Sir Ian||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Pollock, Alexander||Viggers, Peter|
|Porter, Barry||Waddington, David|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wakeham, John|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Waller, Gary|
|Raison, Timothy||Walters, Dennis|
|Rathbone, Tim||Ward, John|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Watson, John|
|Renton, Tim||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Wells, Bowen|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wheeler, John|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Whitney, Raymond|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Wickenden, Keith|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||Wilkinson, John|
|Roberts, M. (Conway)||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|Rossi, Hugh||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rost, Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Scott, Nicholas||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Mr. Anthony Berry|