Part of Exiting the European Union (Transport) – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 2:03 pm, 23rd July 2019

I beg to move,

That the draft British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order 2019, which was laid before this House on 2 May, be approved.

In this day and age, I think we can all agree that the law should not discriminate against people simply because their parents were not married when they were born, and that we should not discriminate against people just because it was their mother who was British, not their father. The draft British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order 2019 is designed to remove discriminatory provisions in the British Nationality Act 1981 for those applying for British citizenship under specific routes introduced to address historical discrimination against those whose parents were not married, or against those whose mother was British, as opposed to their father. The draft order was first laid in Parliament in March 2018.

Once the law has been changed, those who seek to register as British citizens and who were born to an unmarried British father before July 2006, or to a British mother before 1983, will no longer need to demonstrate that they are of good character where it would be discriminatory to require them to do so. In two separate cases, the courts declared the good character requirement to be unlawful and made a declaration of incompatibility with the European convention on human rights. This legislation will correct incompatibilities identified by the domestic courts by removing the good character requirement for those applying for British citizenship via certain routes on the basis of historical discrimination. I am grateful to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its scrutiny of the order and its careful consideration of this hugely complex and sensitive issue.

The remedial order process to correct incompatibilities in primary legislation with the European convention on human rights is rarely used. It is therefore right that each order is scrutinised carefully to ensure compliance with the procedure laid down in the Human Rights Act 1998, and to ensure that the incompatibilities found by the courts are addressed.

The Government welcome the Committee’s recommendation that Parliament approve the order. It remains our position that some of the issues raised by the Committee go beyond the incompatibility rulings and are therefore outwith the scope of the order. I commend this order to the House.