Amendment 11

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 2:28 pm on 27th January 2022.

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Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative 2:28 pm, 27th January 2022

My Lords, as I did this morning, I express great sympathy for the point of view expressed so eloquently and passionately by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. As she rightly said, the amendment moved in the other place was voted down because it contradicted one of our long-standing, century-long principles for who becomes a British citizen. However, as she pointed out, the new amendment deals with the point made in the other place by putting a limit on the applicability of the proposal, which is good. So we are in a better place than we were then. The noble Baroness also offered to talk, if possible, to see whether there is any other way forward on this problem.

I am also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands. I have great sympathy for their position; it is indeed a terrible plight. An evil deed was done to those people. We are talking about perhaps only 500 people now in this context; there are more Chagossians in history, but there are only about 500 of them in this particular category at the moment.

Of course, the real villain here—my noble friend the Minister will be glad to know this—is not the Home Office; it is the Foreign Office, which, frankly, behaved disgracefully. When it examined this matter, the International Court of Justice voted 116 to six against us. For heaven’s sake, you can hardly have a bigger majority than that; I suppose you could have 192 to one or something—that is how many nations there are in the United Nations—but it was a comprehensive defeat. Not only that but, as previous speakers have pointed out, the United States Government are helpful on this matter, and the Mauritian Government have pointed out that they are willing to give the US Government a 99-year lease if they wish to carry on having a base on the island. Every base is covered. There really is no case for the Foreign Office to resist doing the right thing. Frankly, it is costing us in the international arena when we are so completely in the wrong on this issue.

I happened to read—I am a bit of a nerd in this respect—Sir Alan Duncan’s diaries. I am probably the only person here to have done so—perhaps I see another who has, over there. They were quite interesting—too long, but interesting none the less. He indicated the contempt with which the Foreign Office holds this point of view: it simply says that the International Court of Justice’s decision was advisory. We know that, so why does the Foreign Office not take some advice for once? This is doing us huge damage internationally. There really is no downside to agreeing to a new deal, acceding to the demands of the Mauritian Government and dealing with the Chagossian case.

My noble friend on the Front Bench will be glad to know that, ultimately, this is not her responsibility. None the less, here is an issue that the Government could grasp at the right level, and should do so.