Orders of the Day — British Nationality

– in the House of Commons at 9:31 pm on 24 November 1982.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 9:31, 24 November 1982

I wish to give a ruling before this debate begins. The regulations before the House tonight fix fees for registration as a citizen or British subject and for the grant of a certificate of naturalisation as a citizen. Debate is bound to be limited on this issue. It could relate both to the desirability of making charges and to the levels proposed, but a debate on British citizenship would, of course, be out of order.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 10:29, 24 November 1982

I beg to move, That the British Nationality (Fees) Regulations 1982 (S.I., 1982, No. 1011), dated 21st July 1982, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th July, in the last Session of Parliament, be revoked.

In praying against the order, the Opposition are raising a matter that relates to a fundamental difference of philosophy between the two major parties, for it seems to us that to establish a right in law that some members of the community cannot exercise because they do not have the money, is not the mark of a truly free society. A truly free society enshrines in its legislation rights that all its citizens or all those who dwell within its boundaries can exercise, irrespective of their financial circumstances and position. Yet if these regulations become law, they will divide the community that may apply for British citizenship into two groups—those who are theoretically entitled to citizenship and who can claim it because they can afford the fees, and those who are theoretically entitled to it but cannot obtain it because they cannot afford the fees.

The most obvious example is a Pakistani woman of good character with an adequate, or more than adequate, command of English who has resided in Britain for five or more years. That woman is entitled to British citizenship. If the proposed changes in the immigration rules that we debated recently are carried through the House, her acquisition of British citizenship will be of fundamental importance in certain circumstances. It will mean the difference between her right to be joined in Britain by the husband of her choice or not to be joined here by the husband of her choice. The acquisition of British citizenship will determine the future pattern of that woman's life and her freedom to marry and live with the man she chooses. That is deeply significant to the woman and to her family. It is right that she can obtain, thus enabling her husband to join her here under the law, but she can exercise that right only if she can spend a sum of money that is well beyond the means of many of those families.

There will be two classifications of potential British citizens in that group of women— those who can afford to become British and those who cannot. That is fundamentally wrong in every way.

I hope that I need not remind the House that the highest fee for British nationality embodied in the regulation—£200 for a single registration—is well beyond the means of many of those who are likely to apply for British citizenship. The fee must be—some of us fear that it is intended to be—a deterrent that will prevent application for British citizenship from lower income groups. The fee is a result of a most extraordinary increase announced, and pushed through the House, by the Government. There has been a massive increase in the nationality fee from £70 to £200 in five years, and a greater increase for discretionary registration from £35 to £200 during the same period.

Those massive increases are certain to prevent some people who have the theoretical right of citizenship from exercising that right. They have been justified in the House and elsewhere by the Government's insistence that they must cover the cost for the processes involved in naturalisation and registration.

The Minister of State, speaking on an amendment related to that topic, said in the Committee on the British Nationality Bill: we are unable to provide a free service of naturalisation or registration.… it must remain Government policy to recover as much as possible of the cost of processing nationality applications."£[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 12 May 1981; c. 1884.] I shall consider in a moment whether that is a reasonable proposition.

I ask the Minister whether the fears of many bodies outside the House are confirmed and whether, far from covering the fees of nationality and registration applications, the Government are making a profit on the poor families who in many cases will be unable to afford the fees required of them. I fear that the Government wish and intend to do far more than break even. I fear that it is the Government's intention, at least in this year, to make a substantial profit on the operation.

I refer the Minister of State to two parliamentary questions, one asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) on 13 May and one asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) on 6 July. If those two answers were right—of course they were—and if one relates the income from nationality fees on one side of the balance sheet to the cost both of processing registration and naturalisation and of running the nationality division on the other side of the balance sheet, the net difference is a profit of £1·2 million. That profit accrues to the Home Office even when one has calculated, according to cost, the actual price of running a division of the Home Office.

If the Minister's words in Committee were to be taken at face value, all the Government hoped to do was to cover the marginal cost of each application for British citizenship. If those two answers are as accurate as ministerial answers normally are, the Government are covering the cost of each registration application and nationality application, the administration of those services and the division in the Home Office that was responsible for that policy, but are still making a profit of £1·2 million.

I am open to the Minister's contradiction if the two parliamentary answers were wrong, but that is inconceivable. If the two answers were right, it is disgraceful that what is enshrined in law as the right of people resident here should be, first, priced prohibitively for some of them and, secondly, priced at a level that allows the Government to make a profit on that enterprise.

Not only does that seem wrong in principle: it seems wrong in comparison with what happens in other civilised countries. Many Conservative Back-Benchers normally cry at me for comparisons when I talk about immigration policy. Fortunately, they are not in their places, except for one, the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). On his behalf, and on behalf of those who are absent, let me remind the House of what happens in other civilised countries—or dare I say, on this matter, in more civilised countries—with regard to applications for citizenship.

In France, Holland, and Australia—I choose the examples purely at random—there is no charge. Those countries take the view, which is philosophically defended more easily than the Government's position, that if the Government of the day pass into law something that is the right of people resident in that country, that right should not be inhibited by any charge. However, France, Holland and Australia, which make no charge, are not the only classification. There are other countries, such as Canada, which charges between $2 and $15, and the United States, which charges $5. The people there believe that a notional price is right and proper. The consulate told me that it was to prevent and avoid frivolous applications with no purpose or meaning.

I do not believe that the Opposition would object to a small charge to avoid the frivolous application and the waste of administrative time, but the difference between the notional charge and the substantial charge of £200 per person is not only quantitatively great; it is fundamentally different. That is why the Opposition will vote against the proposal tonight.

Photo of Mr Harvey Proctor Mr Harvey Proctor , Basildon

Did the right hon. Gentleman consider that the charges made under the previous Labour Government were notional?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

They were rather more than notional, but they were a great deal less than is being charged now.

Photo of Mr Harvey Proctor Mr Harvey Proctor , Basildon

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

When I have given way this time, I shall give way again. While I am giving way the first time, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the increase that I quoted is from £35 to £200. I am sure that he can do the simple sum that shows the proportional increase and I am sure that he will agree that that move is something from notional to fundamental. I shall give way again with pleasure.

Photo of Mr Harvey Proctor Mr Harvey Proctor , Basildon

If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the charges were rather more than notional under the previous Labour Government, can he tell the House what steps he took to have them reduced?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The hon. Gentleman is obsessed with my obligation to have resigned from the Government five or six years ago. He makes that point in every debate. I accept entirely that while I was burrowing away as the Minister of State in the Foreign Office I was not as diligent as I might have been about every order that went through the House. If the hon. Gentleman ever achieves office in a Conservative Government, I promise him that all sorts of things that happen will escape even his notice.

I also ask the hon. Gentleman to try for one moment to concentrate on the merits of the argument that is being pursued. One of the features of association football is that people who cannot play the ball choose to play the man. I propose to continue playing the ball for the next 20 minutes.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood

Some of us who served in that Government were worried about the matter but, unfortunately, we were not listened to by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins).

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I propose to abdicate from this apportionment of blame and continue with the merits of the argument that ought to detain the House from time to time when we discuss matters of some importance.

The merits of the argument are clearly these. To charge £200 is, in many cases, to prohibit the nationality application that is, in theory, the people's right. It is a charge that is not mirrored in other civilised and compassionate countries.

As the hon. Member for Basildon is so keen to know the Labour Party's attitude on these matters, I remind him that in Committee on the British Nationality Act 1982 we proposed a maximum charge of not more than 1 per cent. of the taxable income of the applicant. My view is that that was a maximum and probably on the high side. One can think of people for whom 1 per cent. of their taxable income, especially if many of one family were applying, would be a prohibition. The point that I have made time after time is that although we can be flexible about the cost and although we lay down no specific provision of what it should be, the principle that governs what it should be is that it should not be so high as to prevent the legitimate applicant from making an application and receiving British citizenship.

The charge should not be so high, especially in the circumstances of applications today. The service is deteriorating. As it becomes increasingly expensive to exercise the rights to which I refer, it becomes administratively increasingly difficult to exercise those rights.

In 1976, when the cost was £35 or £70 at most, it took 18 months for a citizenship application to be processed. It now takes at least two years if we are to rely on the answer that the Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry). If we are to have that high price and if a profit is to be made on the deal in the Home Office, surely it is reasonable for the applicants to say that some of that profit should be used to recruit enough members of staff to enable the applicant to have his application processed in a few weeks or a few months but certainly less than two years. The idea of a profit is anathema to us. It is equally so if that profit is being used when intolerable waiting periods are being imposed on the applicants.

I say for the third time, believing it to be worth repeating, that it is no good our saying to residents in Britain, "You have a statutory right", if they are incapable of exercising that right partly because they cannot afford to do so and partly because the time that it takes to exercise that right makes it worthless once it has come into absolute operation.

As a result of Mr. Speaker's ruling, and the rules of order that have rightly been drawn to our attention, it is impossible for me to give anything like a comprehensive description of our general criticisms of the processes by which United Kingdom citizenship is obtained. I therefore conclude with three comments. First, if we are to have a proper, decent and respectable system for obtaining citizenship, it must be obtained as a result of an objective, rather than a subjective test. Secondly, that test must be subject to the right of appeal. Thirdly—a point that is most important and relevant to this debate—if the objective test has been passed and if an appeal is unnecessary because citizenship has been potentially granted, citizenship must be within the range and reach of every applicant, irrespective of his income group or financial circum stances. At present, many potential citizens are theoretically offered the right but practically denied it. We shall rectify that when we return to power. In the meantime, we shall vote against the regulations.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury 10:47, 24 November 1982

There are moments when I think that the aim of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) seems to be to emulate the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) in his mastery of hyperbole. This evening he has given us an example of that.

I accept that there is a problem that the House should consider. From my contacts with members of the ethnic minorities and others, I know that there is anxiety and that questions have been asked. I shall pick up the point made by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook that we should look at the merits of the argument and explain why we are following this policy.

In no sense do we intend the fees to be a deterrent. Neither the Secretary of State nor I seek to stop people from acquiring our citizenship. If people make a commitment to live in this country, it is right that they should move towards our citizenship. It is important that British citizenship should be available to those who belong here. We are not trying to deter people from acquiring our citizenship. There are quite different reasons for the fees.

I must emphasise the fact that, with one small exception, no fee is increased by the regulations. There are some new fees which apply to new provisions which appear for the first time in the British Nationality Act 1981, but where that Act contains provisions that are similar to those in the present nationality legislation—and this is the overall pattern—the regulations repeat the fee that applies now. The only exception is that for renunciation of citizenship, where a fee of £35 is introduced for the first time since 1976. Therefore, we are debating, not increases in fees in these regulations, but the fees that were introduced by regulations made earlier this year, and which apply from 1 April. Those regulations also introduced a new procedure requiring payment of the fee with the application.

The fact that we are having this debate is, of course, largely due to a change which the Government made in the Bill that became the 1981 Act. Formerly, the regulations on fees were not subject to parliamentary procedure. The Government felt that that was wrong. The proposal in the Bill therefore was that the regulations should be subject to negative resolution. This was enacted as section 41(7). As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said on 4 June 1981, this is a significant advance. It enables the House to give careful consideration to this important matter.

My right hon. Friend also said at that time that there would have to be an increase in fees, but he undertook to do what he could to keep costs down. My right hon. Friend has kept his undertaking, because, although fees were increased from 1 April, the rises were, I would argue, reasonable. That was the first increase for two years as well as the first occasion in recent years on which any Government made a serious attempt to recover the full costs through fees.

I stress again that the regulations that we are discussing do not go beyond the fees that came into force earlier this year. Over the years, successive Administrations have raised the fees for citizenship. In 1975 the fee for naturalisation was £40. For registration as an entitlement it was £10. In October 1976 these fees were raised to £70, a rise of 75 per cent., and £25, an increase of 150 per cent. By April 1979 they had reached £90 and £37·50, so it can clearly be seen that a significant increase in the level of fees is no new phenomenon and that it was the Labour Government who raised fees by these proportions.

We are getting used to hearing the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook expressing his regret at the things that were done by the Labour Government when he was apparently busy doing I know not what at the Foreign Office. He must face the fact that the fees were increased on this scale by the Government of whom he was a member. It is no use blaming the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) either. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) was Minister of State at the time. He is the one hon. Member who cannot escape a share of the blame. Ministers of State must bear some responsibility for the policies of their Departments.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

As I am called in aid of a fellow junior Minister, I should point out that junior Ministers may also plead that they did what they could to get rid of this absurdity at the time. It might serve the present Minister as a useful example if he would analyse how the cost of an application was calculated. The Home Office simply takes the cost of the whole of the Department's work on nationality and divides that by the number of applications. That is how such a high fee is produced.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

The present Minister intends to continue with his explanation of why we have adopted the policy that we have. I think that that is the best course for me to take.

The Government's policy is to keep a firm control on public expenditure and to limit the burden that this places on the economy. Citizenship is an area in which the initiative is taken by the applicant because he or she wants to acquire our citizenship. The State admittedly has an interest in ensuring that the applicant meets the requirements or criteria for citizenship, but even this is in the applicant's interests, as he or she then knows that what is being acquired is in no sense devalued. It is fair, therefore, that the fees charged to applicants should cover the costs of the system.

Fees for citizenship were raised in April 1980 to £150 for naturalisation and discretionary registration and to £50 for registration as an entitlement. There was then a period of. two years in which no changes were made. In April this year the fees were again increased, to £200 and £70 respectively, with the fee for the registration of a minor child going up from £25 to £35. Those are the fees which we intend should continue in force on 1 January. As I have said, the increases were comparable in percentage terms with those introduced by the Labour Administration.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook suggested that increases in fees deter would-be applicants for our citizenship. He said that categorically, but I do not think that he is justified in doing so. In fact, the precise effect is difficult to pin down. The increases in fees since 1976 certainly do not seem to have prevented people from applying for citizenship —rather the reverse. Intake has increased considerably over that period and unfortunately there has been a consequent increase in arrears of applications awaiting processing.

There has, however, been some falling off in the rate of applications since the regulations were made in April. Equally, the coming into force of the regulations was preceded by a very substantial jump in the numbers applying. People are also understandably taking some time to get used to the new system of payment with the application. It is too soon yet to say how far demand may or may not have been affected by the rise in fees. Current indications are, however, that the great majority of applicants who did not send in their fees with their applications initially did, in fact, later send in their fee on request.

I hope the House will bear with me if I now quote figures that have already been given in another place. They are of considerable significance in the context of waiting times and costs.

Five years ago, in 1977, the intake of applications was about 32,000. The nationality division then had 184 staff. In 1981 intake reached 70,000, and in the middle of last year the staff totalled 231. So far this year, up to the end of October, 51,500 applications have been received and the staff now totals 243. As can be seen, the Home Office has been able to approve modest increases in staff to reflect the rising number of applications. Much has also been done to improve and simplify working procedures. Despite all that, delays continue to be a serious problem. I do not deny that.

Photo of Mr Bill Pitt Mr Bill Pitt , Croydon North West

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance, in view of the profit made by the Government from the continued increase in registration fees and the appalling backlog at Lunar House, where postbags are sometimes three or four months old, that the delay will be reduced? Will he enable those awaiting citizenship to obtain it in a proper time?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I shall deal in a moment with the question of the so-called profit. I have stated that we have been able to make some increase in the number of staff dealing with the applications. A careful scrutiny of the operation has been made by Sir Derek Rayner, which is leading to improvements in the handling of applications.

The previous fees procedure of payment on approval of the application also meant that fees were always chasing costs. With increasing delays, the fees collected represented only a small proportion of costs. In the financial year 1980–81, recovery of costs was as low as 30 per cent. Even last year, following the increases made in April 1980, we achieved only 56 per cent. recovery. To illustrate what I mean, one has only to look at naturalisation applications. An application for naturalisation made in 1979 cost, on average, £230 to process. But the fee received when the application was approved was only £90. Those figures show the extent to which the taxpayer generally was subsidising fees, and it seemed to the Government to be an unacceptable situation.

If we had kept the system whereby the fee was paid only when the application was approved, much larger increases in fees would have been necessary last April were costs to be recovered. As it is, by introducing the new system of payment at the time of making the application, we should be able to recover all the estimated costs of processing the applications made in this financial year.

We shall also be receiving this year fees from applications made before 1 April. These relate to applications made in previous years and the fee will be collected when the application is approved, not at the beginning as under the new system. I stress that nothing that we have done over the introduction of new fees has been retrospective, and the old system therefore operates for applications received before the regulations were amended. This means that, in addition to the fees that we collect to cover the cost of this year's applications, we are also receiving fees that relate to applications received in earlier financial years. Therefore, the estimated receipts of £6·9 million may exceed the costs of processing applications for the current financial year by about £1·2 million, as the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook correctly stated.

I emphasise the fact that this is a "once and for all" situation this year. It reflects the fact that under the previous system the fees were collected too late to have much bearing on the current costs of the operation. This factor will have largely disappeared next year.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that on the basis of a two-year delay between application for naturalisation and the granting of it the payment of £200 in advance instead of in arrears means that the applicant is making an interest-free loan to the Government of £200 for two years? If one takes a notional rate of interest of 10 per cent., that means that £40 interest in the hands of the applicant is handed to the Government, and the real increase is not to £200, but to £240, which is a disgrace.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

The answer is simply that it is not a disgrace, because the fee that is charged at the beginning—when the application is lodged—will clearly be less than the fee would be if we were to charge at the time when the application is completed. Obviously costs will have gone up between the first and second period. Therefore, it is not true to say that it is disadvantageous to applicants to pay their fee at the beginning rather than at the end. That is a matter of simple arithmetic.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Teesside Thornaby

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that if the Department is delaying applications for naturalisation, it is stimulating an enormous amount of paper work and other administration as a result of all the inquiries and the checks that are taking place? Eleven thousand telephone calls in a month because people cannot get through to the Department is part of the cost for people who are waiting and having to pay their fees.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

The hon. Gentleman is going rather wide of naturalisation in talking about the number of telephone calls. However, the granting of naturalisation is a serious business. Quite rightly, Parliament has decided that people have to satisfy certain criteria, and in particular have to satisfy criteria relating to good character and language tests. If that is to be properly carried out, it cannot be done without a certain amount of paper work and investigation.

We are fulfilling the duties laid on us by Parliament in carrying out these duties. In doing so we use great care, but we also respond to the fact that a large number of people want British citizenship. The reason for the delay has been the great demand to acquire British citizenship. It is an attractive citizenship to work for, and that is why there has been this large inflow and the amount of work with which we have had to cope.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook spoke about the burden which the increases in fees may impose on many families. It is also said that the need to send the fee with the application will deprive some people of the opportunity to make an application. We have been told about those Commonwealth citizens who have been settled here for many years and are entitled to registration on application but find it difficult to find the money to send with their application. It has also been suggested that fees should be reduced or waived in appropriate cases, or that there should be facilities for the making of staged payments.

As I have said, I do not deny that there is concern about some of these points, but there is, however, a limit to how far the Government can go in the present economic climate towards providing subsidised access to citizenship. I am afraid that we cannot agree to waive or reduce fees for particular categories. To do so would require additional administrative machinery and would mean adding to the delays and costs that have already been referred to. These schemes have been considered in the past, and they are not workable or capable of being administered fairly.

The regulations do, however, contain certain important provisions which reduce the cost to married couples and to families. For example, we decided that it would be right to continue the provision whereby a wife applying with her husband for naturalisation should pay a lower fee, now £70. This will continue also from 1 January, and the total fee payable for a joint application by husband and wife will be £270. Also, the fee of £35 for the registration of a minor child will continue to cover the registration of however many children there may be of a marriage, provided application is made for their registration together. It is therefore as cheap to acquire citizenship for two or three or four or even more children as it is to acquire it for one.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook talked about women who might wish to acquire citizenship as a prelude to bringing in a husband. We are unlikely to be talking here about people who can be described as really poor. After all, the man will have to be able to pay the cost of his fare to this country, the wedding costs, and very likely the initial costs of setting up a household, and so on. It is therefore obvious that he will not be a pauper. I do not believe that in these cases the alleged deterrent effect is likely to apply.

Hon. Members will be aware that an unsuccessful applicant has the fee refunded. The question of making such refunds with interest has been raised. We do not believe that the payment of interest could be justified. As with proposals to waive fees, the overall cost of processing applications would become more complicated. Fees overall would therefore have to go up still further. Moreover, the greater the interest payable, the more work is likely to have been done on the application. However. there is also an argument for saying that even unsuccessful applicants should make some contribution. After all, that used to be the case before 1976, when naturalisation applicants had to pay a preliminary fee. The fact that no interest is paid with refunds should be regarded as a means whereby the unsuccessful candidate makes a modest contribution to the cost of processing his application.

To sum up, the increases in fees that were made last April were necessary after a two-year standstill. The change in the payment procedure means that this year we can eliminate the element of public subsidy with citizenship applications, which had continued for so many years. If we had not changed the method of payment last April, increases in fees of about 80 per cent. would have been necessary, rather than the 30 to 40 per cent. increases that were made. I have explained to the House how the Home Office has not been content simply to continue its existing procedures. It has taken new measures which, as we all know, have led to a 76 per cent. rise in the number of applications granted in 1981.

I am confident that our approach to these difficult matters has been right, and I therefore strongly recommend the House to reject the motion.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Teesside Thornaby 11:07, 24 November 1982

I shall be brief. First, I am disappointed that, despite all the representations that the Minister receives, week after week, from hon. Members, and the letters that he receives from people applying for citizenship, he expressed no regret for the two years' delay that people are facing, and the hardship and uncertainty that that causes. Even if we accept, as I do, that there are administrative problems, the delay and the terrible uncertainty have caused great hardship to many people and their families. I should have thought that any Minister who was responsible for these matters would show some compassion and have some care for the people who are involved in those delays.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) was mentioned. There was another Home Secretary after him—the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees)—and the record will show that in 1976, at the end of my right hon. Friend's term, the backlog of applications was about 26,000. It has gone up now to almost 80,000. The time that people have to wait has also increased. In view of what the Conservative Party said in its manifesto about the Civil Service, there was no way in which the Government would increase the number of civil servants working at Lunar House. Nor was there any possibility of the Government reinforcing the services provided at Lunar House to reduce the backlog. It is bogus to suggest that any serious attempt was to be made to overcome those problems.

I do not object, and nor does my party, to a fee being paid, but we object to the extent of the increase in the fee since the Government took office. In 1980 the fee jumped £60 from £90 to £150. This year it has been increased by £50 to £200. One might accept that the fee should be increased in line with inflation, but the increases that have been made are unjustified and will inevitably cause considerable hardship to applicants.

If the proposal is that the fee should cover the cost of administration, those who pay the fee should receive some service in return. They should receive replies to their telephone inquiries and letters. As has been pointed out so urgently, people who do not receive replies to their letters do not know what is going on. They come to our surgeries so that we can find out from the Minister. That causes more expense and difficulty. There is no justification for increasing fees to their present level.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made the fundamental point, which emerged also from the Minister's remarks, that people applying for citizenship and naturalisation are not being given generous favours. It is their right, and one would expect people who are applying for their rights to be treated properly and not be deterred or barred by the fee or administrative problems. For that reason, I view with sympathy the proposal to waive fees for those applicants on supplementary benefit or family income supplement or for those who are not earning. Such people have the right but do not have the means to obtain it. They should have their right, whether or not they can afford it.

I hope that the Minister and the Government will look at the proposal again so that people who cannot afford the substantial fee can claim what is theirs.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Bromley Orpington 11:12, 24 November 1982

The bogus indignation that has been stirred up by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) is deplorable and gives people a poor impression of the merits of this proposal. The Labour Party's present attitude towards immigration is pure humbug, because in the past it has always taken a realistic attitude towards the payment of fees for the grant of registration and naturalisation.

Why do the Opposition now say that there is something wrong in charging fees when they happily charged them? Why they should say that fees should not be increased when they increased them regularly defies imagination.

Since 1948, if not before, the people about whom they have been speaking so tenderly have been able to obtain citizenship, or its equivalent, by filling in the form and paying the money. Why should it be so different now that we are establishing a new terminology and setting a realistic fee? Indeed, that was set earlier this year. It is no different in principle. The Labour Government knew that.

I suppose that the Government, with their realistic attitude towards the cost of public services, have assessed the correct fee—£70 for registration and £200 for naturalisation. That seems to be a proper ratio, although I cannot say to what degree it may be related to the overall cost or the individual application.

It was absurd for the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook to say that the fee should be means tested in some way and that people should pay what they could afford. The most fantastic idea came from the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth). British nationality is not a right. It is the most precious gift that we can confer on anyone who does not possess it. It is a wonderful thing. It is worth every penny that people must pay for it. Those who are not prepared to pay that price should not be allowed to have it. Some sacrifice should be made for such a privilege.

It is perfectly reasonable and proper that people who are entitled to that privilege should pay £70 towards the cost of registration. It is perfectly proper that foreigners with an allegiance to another country and another sovereign should pay £200 because there must be investigation into their antecedents and qualifications.

Have we lost all sense of reality in suggesting that a person who wishes to qualify for the privilege of being a British citizen should not be required to pay a realistic price? It is absurd for hon. Members to waste the time of the House on such a subject.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York 11:16, 24 November 1982

I agree that there is a good deal of humbug in the House tonight, but I suspect that it is largely centred on Conservative Members and a little on the Front Bench below the Gangway. A fair amount came from the Government Front Bench. The Minister is becoming adept at speaking with a forked tongue. When he goes to talk to the minority communities he is bland, charming and sensitive to their difficulties. He was so in his opening remarks tonight. However, there was not one hint of sensitivity about the problems that unemployed people—disproportionately unemployed because they are members of minority communities—face upon being asked to pay these fees.

When I was doing jurisprudence, I read of a supreme court judge in America defining law in terms of the capacity of the miscreant to pay the fine. He reckoned that the owner of a Rolls-Royce, who was convicted of a motoring offence but fined the same as the owner of a mini, was in a better position to commit an offence.

This matter is rather like that. For the Minister £200 may mean nothing, but to an unemployed person with a large family to feed, it is an enormous sum of money. I accept that the Labour Government increased the amount, and I protested about it at the time. However, there is a marked change in the nature of the application.

When the matter was considered in the mid-1970s, the great majority of applications came from Commonwealth citizens who were registering and the charge then was small. Now there are a disproportionate number of applications for those who come to be naturalised. It is that change in the burden of the work which is throwing more work on to the Department.

Quite apart from that, there is the question of what the Minister means when he talks about not subsidising the cost of the operation. That is computed in the most elementary way. The Under-Secretary in charge of the Department tots up the total cost of running not Lunar House but the nationality department of the Home Office. Then he divides that by the number of applicants in any one year. On that basis the applicant is charged a fee.

In the days of the Labour Government we did not charge the full cost of each application because we recognised that the applicant was not causing the full cost of it. There were the cleaners in the Department, the cars in the Department, the heating of the Department and all the other work that the Department did apart from dealing with applications for registration or naturalisation. The Minister is saying that every applicant must pay toward these costs. In a sense, it is not the taxpayer who is subsidising the applicant, but the applicant who is subsidising the taxpayer.

It may be that the £1·2 million profit is a temporary phenomenon arising from the change in depositing the fee when the application is made, but, overall, under the scheme that the Government are pursuing of charging the full cost to the Department of the applications, the applicant is paying something towards costs that his application did not cause.

If we are discussing a gift of undiluted virtue, according to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), why is it that the Americans, the Australians and the Canadians, who regard their nationality in exactly the same way as we regard ours—especially the Americans—do not feel it necessary to charge these huge fees? It was not the practice of the United Kingdom to charge such fees until the Government of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in the early 1970s, decided that there should be a fee for such applications to lower public expenditure. The truth is that we should not have these fees at all.

My former PPS, the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), will remember only too well the times that we had under the stewardship of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who was Home Secretary in a Labour Government. If he is saying that the Social Democratic Party is concerned about the plight of immigrants in paying these fees, I only wish that the right hon. Member for Hillhead had accepted tile advice that he was given as Home Secretary and abolished the fees. The right hon. Gentleman, who came straight from the Treasury, was among the first to talk about public expenditure. It does not come well from the SDP to advance the immigrants' case in this debate.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 11:23, 24 November 1982

It has emerged in the debate that the fees have been increased mainly by Labour Governments. I do not like the level of the fees.

Photo of Mr Jock Stallard Mr Jock Stallard , Camden St Pancras North

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that they are too high?

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I do not like the fact that the numbers of those engaged in this business steadily increases. The methods by which the Home. Office manages this business remain extremely backward. Conservative Members are committed to improving the efficiency of Government and everything that my right hon. Friend has said tonight proves to me that the efficiency of Government is extremely low and getting lower.

In the past 10 years there has been an office revolution in private industry. The ways in which paper work, information retrieval and computer methods are dealt with in private industry have caused a drastic reduction in the numbers of employees required to process paper, and there has been a great acceleration in the way in which information is processed. The evidence presented by my right hon. Friend of the way in which the job is done is a deplorable example of Government remaining incompetent. If private industry were to run its affairs in anything like this sloppy fashion, it would be far less able to pay the taxes that are helping to carry this incompetent bureaucratic machine.

I support the policy of full cost recovery. It is exactly right and the comments that have been made from the Opposition about means testing and about letting off certain people are irrelevant, but there is one corollary which should apply across the public service—if there is to be full cost recovery there should be full disclosure of the make-up of Government charges on the citizen.

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), speaking with some experience of the Home Office, is correct. In Department after Department, full cost recovery is not accompanied by any demonstration to the House of how the charges are made up. Will my right hon. Friend provide some precise figures? How does he arrive at the hourly pay of those who are handling this paperwork? My suspicion is that the hourly pay is a great deal higher in the public sector in general, and in the Home Office in particular, than it could possibly be in the private sector. How much of the overheads are lumbered on to this service when they arise from the remainder of the operation of that department of the Home Office?

Those figures can be known. I have already had discussions with the Treasury about the charges that are now being made on the weighing machine industry. Once the Treasury and the Comptroller and Auditor General started to examine these matters, we discovered that the overheads with which the citizen was lumbered were unacceptable.

The Minister said that Sir Derek Rayner had been looking into this matter. I hope that he will make some progress because it has been revealed tonight that the machine is exceedingly inefficient.

My final point concerns the proportion of costs that are now being recovered. I understood my right hon. Friend to say—this is only one of the many figures that he fairly gave to the House—that last year it cost a staggering £230 to process each case. The United States has far more experience of handling naturalisation than any other country in the world. It has to deal not only with people from half a dozen racial and cultural backgrounds—as we do in Britain—but with the most extraordinary melting pot in the world, including in Los Angeles at the moment about 250,000 people from different parts of South-East Asia. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the American problem of naturalisation is infinitely greater than the one with which we must cope in Britain, but the Americans manage to process them in a matter of weeks rather than in a matter of years. The revelation that it is taking up to two years and costing up to £230 in Britain to process a single naturalisation demonstrates to me that we have too much incompetent, inefficient, bureaucratic machinery. That is the answer to the Opposition because they want more of it. They want to run the whole country in that way. That is why I sit on the Conservative Benches and not on the Opposition Benches.

The Conservative Party came to office to improve and to make more efficient the processes of government. I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend a better description of the job that we are doing than the one we have had tonight.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood 11:30, 24 November 1982

I should like to declare an interest, first, because as a commissioner of oaths I will receive £2 under article 10 of the regulations and, secondly and much more important, because many of my constituents deeply resent the imposition of fees at such a level.

When the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) first thought about imposing these fees my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and I were deeply opposed to them and I remain so opposed to any fee.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

The hon. Gentleman knows that the fees were introduced by the Conservative Government. When the hon. Gentleman embarks on a vendetta, he should stick to the facts.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood

My hon. Friend the Member for York and I made representations to the right hon. Member for Hillhead when he was Home Secretary, but he was so arrogant to his junior Ministers that he would not even listen. Members of the SDP will soon learn that, because the right hon. Gentleman's reputation for being arrogant is percolating throughout the country.

I am opposed to fees in principle. I fail to understand how the Government can charge £200 for discretionary registration. What has to be done? First, Lunar House—sometimes called "Lunatic House"—has to check that the application is in order. I have some experience, so I know that provided that the papers are reasonable it does not take more than a few minutes to look at passport markings to check whether the five year absence condition has been satisfied. Secondly, the Home Office has to establish that the person has a command of English. If hon. Members are worried, perhaps they would like to privatise that part of the operation. People have only to go to an institute in my constituency to obtain for next to nothing a certificate to prove that they have a command of English.

Thirdly, the Home Office has to be satisfied that the person is of good character. That normally means that the person has no criminal record. That is relatively easy to check using the police computer. Some policemen, even without authority, have no difficulty in finding out whether someone has a criminal record.

What on earth do Home Office officials do for the rest of the two years? We are entitled to an explanation of why it costs £200 and what on earth goes on for two years? Of course, the real answer may lie with the Treasury, but if the Minister cannot explain I hope that hon. Members who sit on the Select Committee on Home Affairs will take up the issue and explore it in detail.

Photo of Mr Bill Pitt Mr Bill Pitt , Croydon North West 11:33, 24 November 1982

I declare two interests. First, "Lunatic House" is in my borough but fortunately not in my constituency, and, secondly, many of my constituents are affected by the regulation. I am appalled that a profit is made. I failed to receive a satisfactory explanantion when I intervened earlier. Lunar House is in an appalling mess.

A Mr. Shah came to my surgery last Saturday. I shall write to the Minister about him in more detail later. He applied for British nationality and waited 18 months. Lunar House told him that he was out of time by a couple of days. He re-applied on 24 May 1981 and is still waiting for a reply.

I am told that sometimes sacks of mail three months old can be seen at Lunar House. Their arrival is noted, but no one opens the envelopes. That is appalling and it must be stopped.

We charge a person the incredible sum of £200 to become a naturalised citizen when Australia and America charge much less. No country could be more proud of its nationality than the United States. We must consider what is done for the £200 and process the applications in weeks not years, otherwise we are being immoral and fatuous. That is why I shall support the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) tonight.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East 11:34, 24 November 1982

I should be sorry if the debate developed into a clash between two or three political parties, because I am worried about individuals, including many of my constituents, who have real fears and real difficulties.

Some hon. Members believe that there should be full cost recovery. That is a wonderful idea, but why is it not applied to everything we do? If we applied full cost recovery along the corridor in the Members' Dining Room, perhaps we need not fiddle the figures to try to show a profit. But everyone accepts that. Everyone accepts that those who borrow money from building societies do not repay its full cost. We accept that, because we realise that we cannot charge the full cost for that which is desirable and which we encourage people to have. We believe that no one should be debarred from having those things because of the cost.

Perhaps there can be a political argument about that, but there can be no political argument about the need for efficiency at Lunar House. Some of my constituents have been driven to despair by the long wait after application, with no acknowledgment of letters and the impossibility of getting through on the telephone. I tried to get through to Lunar House every half hour one day, but nothing happened. It is even more frustrating if one is telephoning from Oldham or further afield. I cannot believe that the Minister is insensitive to the fears of those who must wait such a long time.

I hope that the Minister will apply the same energy to this matter as his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment applies when he receives complaints from people who are waiting to purchase their council homes. If they must wait two years for their application to be processed, there is a row in the House and legislation is brought forward to cut the waiting time. If we can do that for those who are waiting to buy council houses, why cannot the Minister take the point that is being made even by his own colleagues? It is not a political matter, but a matter of dealing fairly with people.

It need not take two years to process an application if the system is efficient. Are the bags of mail opened when they arrive at Lunar House? If they are not, envelopes containing £200 must sit unopened for weeks. Is that efficient? The delays are due not to investigation but to inefficiency and the Minister must accept responsibility for that.

Photo of Mr John Page Mr John Page , Harrow West 11:37, 24 November 1982

I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber to hear the earlier part of the debate and I shall intervene in only about three sentences.

British nationality is the greatest privilege and the greatest pride that can be invested in a human being. To cavil at a price of £270 for the greatest privilege on earth is remarkable. The cost of a Rolls-Royce—about £27,000—is suitable. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will not be forced into hurrying by exhortations from hon. Members on either side of the House. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) said that his idea of proof of being a fit and proper person was the absence of a conviction. One should consider the matter much more deeply than that, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue to do so.

Photo of Mr Sydney Bidwell Mr Sydney Bidwell , Ealing, Southall 11:39, 24 November 1982

There is not much point in our digging into the past. One cannot say that a lovely Labour Party and a rotten Tory Party introduced the present system.

I shall address my remarks specifically to the Minister of State. The fees are being raised alarmingly. The current delay in processing the applications means that we are discouraging applications for naturalisation and eventual citizenship. It follows that, with a new British Nationality Act on the Statute book, whether it was introduced under a Labour Government or a Tory Government, the applications will begin to come flooding in. When the Act is under way in the new year the numbers of applications will increase again. We shall not face the problem of keeping people waiting for two years—that period might extend to three years and more.

There is also expenditure on advertising, which is part of the regulations. A public declaration of intention is being made. There is also the question of stateless persons. In some families one person may find it difficult to get out of the country because he needs travel documents to do so. The numbers of such people are increasing.

We said in our controversial report in the last Parliament that we sought to encourage people of another nationality who had lived in this country for many years to go for naturalisation and to make up their minds whether they thought that they belonged to this country. I do not know whether there is any logic in what the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and Harrow, West (Mr. Page) say, but I am on their side when they say that it is a privilege to be a British citizen. I am a British patriot. We do not suggest that all patriots sit on Conservative Benches by a long chalk. The true patriots are members of the British working class.

If the new workers from overseas want to become members of the British working class and enjoy the privileges of being a citizen, but there is delay or extra fees, or it takes a long time to apply for naturalisation, they are continuing in an underprivileged position. Therefore, one cannot have it all ways. If true Tories believe in the equality of opportunity, they should be in the forefront of those criticising the Minister's proposals.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South 11:42, 24 November 1982

When a constituent asks me whether he should apply for British citizenship, I invariably advise him that it would be in his best interests to do so, and there then follow the difficult discussions on the high cost of pursuing the task of applying for citizenship.

It is within the experience of most of us who represent inner city constituencies that people were made anxious by the passing of the British Nationality Act and are resentful and upset by the high charges that are being imposed on them if they seek to become citizens of the country in which they have made their home.

The inefficiency of the nationality division of the Home Office is almost a byword. I wonder when the Minister last looked at the procedures in the part of the Department that is his responsibility. Let me give him an example. A couple of days ago I was telephoned by my local community relations council, which could not get hold of copies of form R1A anywhere in Wandsworth. This is one of the forms that people must fill in when they apply for registration as citizens. In the end I had to telephone the Minister's private office to ask his staff whether they could get hold of the form. I was happy to do that on behalf of my local people, but it is ludicrous that because they could not get through to Lunar House on the telephone they had to resort to the device of contacting me and I had to ask the Minister's private office to obtain the form.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is a widespread problem? I had exactly the same problem this week.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South

I hope that the Minister's Department will be able to send the forms quickly, because people are asking for them as they wish to make the necessary applications. What is the basis for the assessment of the cost of applications? Is a fair charge being made? Is it not a fact that the nationality division does a great deal more than process applications for citizenship? Is it not true that it advises on policy? It is not the case that a fair proportion of its work is nothing to do with such applications, and that to impose the whole cost of that division on people who apply for citizenship is grotesquely unfair and will not ensure that people pay for the true costs of the service? I suggest that if the Minister were to review the efficiency of, and the proper costings for, the service he would end up with much lower charges than those that we are discussing.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West 11:45, 24 November 1982

The increased fees have an adverse effect not only on the ethnic minorities; they also affect the substantial East European community. In Bradford, for example, in addition to Pakistanis who are seriously affected by the fees, there is a large population of Poles and others who were deterred from applying for naturalisation even by the previous fees. They are after all effectively stateless and do not, as has been suggested, owe allegiance to any other country.

Many people in industrial areas such as Bradford are unemployed. The Government are putting a burden of long delays and high costs on unemployed people. That must be wrong. As I argued on the British Nationality Bill 1982, the Government should think about fees that are as high as these.

There is no point in going into the past. There was no demur at the increase in fees in 1979, but the fees then were nowhere near as high as they are now. The Government should think again especially as many of the affected people will have to make interest-free loans to the Government. In many cases the unsuccessful applicants will get their money back a year or two later. That must also be wrong. The Government do not need to make a few pounds out of poor people by taking 10 per cent. interest from them for two years. At compound interest that works out at a £42 surcharge on the £200 naturalisation fee. That must be wrong. The Government should think again.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 11:47, 24 November 1982

With the leave of the House, I shall make only three points, the final one of which I hope the Minister will find partially emollient.

I fear that the Minister has not begun, or attempted, to deal with the Opposition's main charge against this policy—that a theoretical right is provided to all people who live in Britain who qualify for British citizenship but that it is exercisable only by those who can pay a substantial fee, and that right that is exercisaable only by those who can afford it is not a right of which a free society can be proud.

The Minister did not deal with that matter at all, not least, I suspect, because of what many of my hon. Friends will regard as an extraordinary statement that he made. He said that he knew of no evidence to suggest that applicants were being deterred by the fee.

Every Opposition Member who has constituents among whom the immigrants number can give examples from every weekend's surgery of applicants who intended to become British citizens but who, when they found that a fee of £200 was required of them, said that they could not afford to do it. I assure the Minister that such people exist. It is a matter of surprise to the Opposition and a matter of some shame to the Minister that he does not know that such people exist, for they exist in substantial numbers.

The Opposition have repeatedly told the Minister that the cost that each person is now being required to bear is more than the simple cost of that person's application and that it also carries costs that are not legitimate to that act. We have told him that the applicants are being required to subsidise the general running of one division of the Home Office. Is that true, and is it right in principle and in fact?

I shall not comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page). However, there has been unanimity among all serious speakers that there is something very wrong with the organisation of the system of processing nationality applications. Every hon. Member has been deeply critical of the organisation of Lunar House and the processing of applications.

Will the Minister look at those processes? Does he share our concern about the two-year delay? Is he concerned about those applicants who receive no acknowledgment of their applications? Is he worried that the telephone lines are blocked because so many people are ringing in? Does he share our belief that it is wrong that applicants can find out where they stand only through their Members of Parliament? Will he give an assurance that there will be an investigation into what goes on at Lunar House? Will he promise to find out how to introduce greater efficiency into the service? If the right hon. Gentleman can assure us about those points he will go a long way towards uniting the House, which would be a thoroughly healthy thing for him to do.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury 11:50, 24 November 1982

At the beginning of the debate I said that I well understood the concern that is felt. I made it perfectly clear that I am not happy about the delays in the process of granting registration and naturalisation. They are fundamentally linked to the great pressure of demand in the past year or two. In the short time left to me, I shall deal with the way in which we organise the service.

The case against what we are doing has not been made. I remind the House that the percentage increase is not out of line with the increases imposed by the previous Labour Government in 1976. They increased the naturalisation fee by 75 per cent. and the registration entitlement fee by 150 per cent. Those are very substantial percentages. Although I acknowledge the problem of delays, they cause hardship in only a few cases. By definition those who apply for our citizenship have a residence requirement to meet and also have to meet the requirement of an intention to remain in this country. Although I quite understand that it is annoying to have to wait, their status in this country is hardly ever affected by the delay. It is important to bear that in mind.

It has been suggested by Opposition Members and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) that the operation is not efficient. My hon. Friend asked me several specific questions, and I shall be happy to write to him about them. I have the greatest respect for my staff at Lunar House and Apollo House who handle the work. They have a difficult job, but I have every reason to believe that they apply themselves to it with great care, skill and intelligence. We have had an extremely careful analysis made of the processes of handling naturalisation. It was carried out by Sir Derek Rayner. A copy of the report is in the Library and I would be more impressed by Opposition Members if they had read the report before coming to the Chamber to give their strictures. When the debate is over I suggest that they should go to the Library to study the problem.

To my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds and others I shall cite a figure that does not show a bad productivity record. In 1980, 218 staff gave citizenship to 27,500 people. In 1981, 231 staff processed 48,500 successful citizenship applications. In terms of crude productivity, that is a sensational achievement. It is right to pay tribute to those who did that work.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) asked about the right to citizenship. It is said that it is wrong that there should be any impediment to exercising that right. First, in no case is the £200 fee charged to people who have the right of citizenship. It is the fee for naturalisation when the discretion to grant citizenship lies entirely with the Home Secretary, as it did under the Labour Government and has done since well back into the nineteenth century. Those with an entitlement to citizenship pay a fee of £70 at most, so there is a clear distinction between citizenship as an entitlement and citizenship at discretion. Before talking about hardship, the hon. Member for Thornaby should consider a little more carefully what the nature of the hardship, if any, really is.

A number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, referred to the volume of work covered by the fee. It covers the work of the nationality division as a whole. In our view, it would be unrealistic to divide that into work on applications and work on nationality matters generally. All the work is relevant to the scheme of citizenship operated under the Act, and the applicant is seeking that citizenship and all that it entails. Therefore, we believe that it is proper to take all that work into the calculation.

I reiterate that I do not believe that it has been proved that our proposals are in any way unfair or impose great hardship. I remind the House again that wives and children are subject to a much lower fee than the normal rate and that an entire family of children can come in under the £35 level. I believe that our proposal is entirely right and I urge the House to reject the Opposition motion.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 257.

Division No. 17][11.56 pm
Abse, LeoBuchan, Norman
Adams, AllenCallaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)
Allaun, FrankCampbell, Ian
Alton, DavidCampbell-Savours, Dale
Anderson, DonaldCant, R. B.
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCarmichael, Neil
Ashley, Rt Hon JackClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashton, JoeClarke, Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie)
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)
Bagier, Gordon A.T.Cohen, Stanley
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Beith, A. J.Cowans, Harry
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
Bidwell, SydneyCrawshaw, Richard
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCryer, Bob
Bray, Dr JeremyCunliffe, Lawrence
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Maynard, Miss Joan
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Meacher, Michael
Dewar, DonaldMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Dixon, DonaldMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Dobson, FrankMitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Dormand, JackMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dubs, AlfredMorris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Duffy, A. E. P.Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dunnett, JackMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Eadie, AlexNewens, Stanley
Eastham, KenOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)O'Neill, Martin
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Palmer, Arthur
English, MichaelPark, George
Ennals, Rt Hon DavidParker, John
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Parry, Robert
Evans, John (Newton)Pavitt, Laurie
Ewing, HarryPendry, Tom
Faulds, AndrewPenhaligon, David
Field, FrankPitt, William Henry
Flannery, MartinPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Ford, BenPrescott, John
Foster, DerekRace, Reg
Foulkes, GeorgeRadice, Giles
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldRichardson, Jo
Freud, ClementRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
George, BruceRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRobertson, George
Golding, JohnRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Graham, TedRooker, J. W.
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hardy, PeterRowlands, Ted
Harman, Harriet (Peckham)Ryman, John
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSever, John
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithSheerman, Barry
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoySheldon, Rt Hon R.
Heffer, Eric S.Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Home Robertson, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Homewood, WilliamSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hooley, FrankSnape, Peter
Howell, Rt Hon D.Soley, Clive
Hoyle, DouglasSpearing, Nigel
Huckfield, LesSpellar, John Francis (B'ham)
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Spriggs, Leslie
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Stallard, A. W.
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Steel, Rt Hon David
Janner, Hon GrevilleStoddart, David
John, BrynmorStott, Roger
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Strang, Gavin
Kerr, RussellStraw, Jack
Kilroy-Silk, RobertSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Lambie, DavidTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Lamond, JamesThomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Leadbitter, TedThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Leighton, RonaldTilley, John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Tinn, James
Litherland, RobertTorney, Tom
Lofthouse, GeoffreyUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
Lyon, Alexander (York)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
McDonald, Dr OonaghWalker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Wardell, Gareth
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Watkins, David
McKelvey, WilliamWeetch, Ken
Maclennan, RobertWelsh, Michael
McNamara, KevinWhite, Frank R.
McWilliam, JohnWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Marks, KennethWhitehead, Phillip
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)Williams, Rt Hon A.(S sea W)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Winnick, David
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Woodall, Alec
Mason, Rt Hon RoyWoolmer, Kenneth
Wrigglesworth, IanTellers for the Ayes:
Young, David (Bolton E)Mr. Frank Haynes and
Mr. George Morton.
Adley, RobertFairgrieve, Sir Russell
Aitken, JonathanFaith, Mrs Sheila
Alexander, RichardFell, Sir Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelFenner, Mrs Peggy
Amery, Rt Hon JulianFinsberg, Geoffrey
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)Fisher, Sir Nigel
Atkins, Robert(Preston N)Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)Forman, Nigel
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Banks, RobertFox, Marcus
Bendall, VivianFraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Fry, Peter
Best, KeithGardiner, George (Reigate)
Bevan, David GilroyGardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
Blackburn, JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Blaker, PeterGoodhart, Sir Philip
Body, RichardGoodhew, Sir Victor
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGoodlad, Alastair
Boscawen, Hon RobertGorst, John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Boyson, Dr RhodesGreenway, Harry
Braine, Sir BernardGrieve, Percy
Bright, GrahamGriffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)
Brinton, TimGriffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonGrist, Ian
Brooke, Hon PeterGummer, John Selwyn
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)Hamilton, Hon A.
Browne, John (Winchester)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Hannam, John
Buck, AntonyHaselhurst, Alan
Budgen, NickHastings, Stephen
Bulmer, EsmondHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Burden, Sir FrederickHawkins, Sir Paul
Butler, Hon AdamHawksley, Warren
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Heddle, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Henderson, Barry
Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, SydneyHicks, Robert
Churchill, W. S.Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hooson, Tom
Clegg, Sir WalterHordern, Peter
Colvin, MichaelHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idf'd)
Cope, JohnHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Corrie, JohnHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Costain, Sir AlbertHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Crouch, DavidIrvine, Rt Hon Bryant Godman
Dickens, GeoffreyJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Dorrell, StephenJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dover, DenshoreJopling, Rt Hon Michael
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Durant, TonyKing, Rt Hon Tom
Dykes, HughKitson, Sir Timothy
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnKnight, Mrs Jill
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Knox, David
Eggar, TimLang, Ian
Elliott, Sir WilliamLatham, Michael
Eyre, ReginaldLawrence, Ivan
Fairbairn, NicholasLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Lee, JohnRhodes James, Robert
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Loveridge, JohnRossi, Hugh
Luce, RichardRost, Peter
Lyell, NicholasRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
McCrindle, RobertSainsbury, Hon Timothy
MacGregor, JohnShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
MacKay, John (Argyll)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M.Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Shersby, Michael
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Silvester, Fred
McQuarrie, AlbertSmith, Dudley
Madel, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Major, JohnSpeller, Tony
Marland, PaulSpence, John
Marlow, AntonySpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marten, Rt Hon NeilSproat, Iain
Mates, MichaelSquire, Robin
Mather, CarolStainton, Keith
Mawby, RayStanbrook, Ivor
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStanley, John
Mayhew, PatrickSteen, Anthony
Mellor, DavidStevens, Martin
Meyer, Sir AnthonyStewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Stradling Thomas, J.
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Tapsell, Peter
Miscampbell, NormanTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Temple-Morris, Peter
Moate, RogerThompson, Donald
Moore, JohnThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Morris, M. (N'hampton S)Thornton, Malcolm
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Trippier, David
Mudd, DavidTrotter, Neville
Murphy, ChristopherVaughan, Dr Gerard
Myles, DavidViggers, Peter
Neale, GerrardWaddington, David
Needham, RichardWakeham, John
Nelson, AnthonyWaldegrave, Hon William
Neubert, MichaelWalker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Newton, TonyWalker, B. (Perth)
Onslow, CranleyWaller, Gary
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Ward, John
Osborn, JohnWarren, Kenneth
Page, John (Harrow, West)Watson, John
Page, Richard (SW Herts)Wells, Bowen
Parris, MatthewWells, John (Maidstone)
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Wheeler, John
Patten, John (Oxford)Whitney, Raymond
Pattie, GeoffreyWiggin, Jerry
Pawsey, JamesWilkinson, John
Percival, Sir IanWilliams, D.(Montgomery)
Pink, R. BonnerWinterton, Nicholas
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)Wolfson, Mark
Prior, Rt Hon JamesYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Proctor, K. Harvey
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyTellers for the Noes:
Rathbone, TimMr. David Hunt and
Rees-Davies, W. R.Mr. Anthony Berry.
Renton, Tim

Question accordingly negatived.