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 will write to the noble Baroness on that because if people have not even had a conviction or indeed been found guilty of any small crime, that would appear to contradict what I was saying.

All noble Lords asked about the fees for children. The noble Lord, Lord Russell, made the distinction between ILR and citizenship. That is absolutely right. Upon application for citizenship there is a fee, but citizenship is not an absolute right and acquisition is not automatic; it remains subject to an application being made and the fulfilment of statutory requirements such as taking an oath and making pledges at a citizenship ceremony in the case of adults, and the payment of fees. There are provisions for those who are destitute, including children living in local authority care, to be exempt from application fees in specific circumstances. This is clearly set out in guidance for caseworkers and the Government consider it sufficient to allow vulnerable children to access the services they need. Nevertheless, I am aware that this issue has been raised several times recently, both in this House and in the other place, as well as being the feature of the recent inspection by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. Given the attention that this subject has attracted, the Government have agreed to keep the current position under review. Before the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, screams in frustration, I will keep the House updated on that. Clearly, we are about to go through a period of slight flux with a new Administration, a comprehensive spending review and a new Prime Minister, so I hope the noble Baroness will forgive me for being a bit more vague on this occasion. I do not think she does, but it is as much as I can say at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the British Overseas Territories. The JCHR is concerned that the discriminatory provisions this remedial order seeks to remedy will still apply to British Overseas Territories citizens. Regrettably, that is true. When changes to nationality legislation were made, they were introduced at a very late stage in the parliamentary process and there was no time to consult fully with the territories about introducing similar provisions for the status of British Overseas Territories citizens. It would not have been right to introduce legislation that would affect the territories and potentially the status of those living there without that consultation. We recognise the difficulties that still are faced by those citizens who might want to pass on their citizenship to their children and we are actively considering how best to address those concerns, taking into account the opportunities for doing so.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the compatibility of the order with the ECHR. The draft order is compatible with human rights; we confirmed this in the Explanatory Memorandum that was relaid yesterday.