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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 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) 5:15 pm, 23rd July 2019

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, which has lasted longer than it did in the other place. That does not surprise me, because your Lordships are so much more forensic.

Most noble Lords made similar points, the first of which was around the good character test for children. The good character requirement for British citizenship is set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 and applies to those seeking to register as British who are aged 10 and over at the time of application. This is because 10 is the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales. Children as young as 10 can and do commit very serious acts of criminality, such as murder and rape, and it cannot be right that such offences are disregarded when assessing a child’s suitability for citizenship. The Government do not believe that the good character requirement for children is at odds with the statutory obligation in Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

However, I wish to make clear—I think it was either the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, or the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who raised this issue—that having a criminal conviction does not necessarily mean that an application for citizenship is automatically refused, particularly in the case of minor offences attracting an out-of-court disposal: for example, a youth caution. Each case is considered on its individual merits, and guidance for caseworkers makes it clear where discretion can be exercised.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, raised the issue of repeated fees—