British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:49 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 4:49 pm, 23rd July 2019

My Lords, in this day and age, I think that we can all agree that the law should not discriminate against people simply because their parents were not married when they were born or discriminate against people just because it was their mother who was British and not their father.

The draft British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order seeks to remove discriminatory provisions in the British Nationality Act 1981 for those applying for British citizenship under specific routes introduced to address historic discrimination against those whose parents were not married. The draft order was first laid in Parliament in March 2018.

This means that, once the law is changed, those seeking to register as British citizens who were born to an unmarried British father before July 2006 or to a British mother before 1983 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 unlawful and made a declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights. The legislation will correct incompatibilities identified by the domestic courts by removing the good character requirement for those applying for British citizenship in certain routes on the basis of historic discrimination. I am grateful to the JCHR for its scrutiny of the order and its careful consideration of a 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 both compliance with the procedure laid down in the Human Rights Act 1998 and to ensure that incompatibilities found by the courts are addressed.

The Government welcome the committee’s recommendation that this order be approved today. However, it remains our position that the wider nationality issues raised by the committee go beyond the judiciary’s incompatibility rulings and are therefore outwith the scope of the order. I commend the order to the House and beg to move.