Amendment 83

Nationality and Borders Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 8th March 2022.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering:

Moved by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering

83: After Clause 78, insert the following new Clause—“Fees(1) Section 68 of the Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (9), insert—“(9A) Notwithstanding subsection (9), in setting the amount of any fee in relation to registration of British citizenship the Secretary of State—(a) must not set that amount at a level beyond the Secretary of State’s estimation of the administrative costs of the function to which the fee relates,(b) must have regard to the need to promote British citizenship as the nationality of all persons connected to the United Kingdom and British overseas territories citizenship as the nationality of all persons connected to the British overseas territories, and(c) may have regard only to—(i) the costs of exercising the function,(ii) fees charged by or on behalf of governments of other countries in respect of comparable functions, or(iii) any international agreement.” (3) After subsection (10), insert—“(10A) Fees regulations must provide that no fee is to be charged for—(a) the registration of any child who is looked after by a local authority, or(b) the registration by statutory entitlement of any person to correct any historical legislative unfairness.””

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to move Amendment 83. I say at the outset that I shall neither speak to nor move Amendment 84. I take this opportunity to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for their support for this amendment.

The attraction of this amendment is that, after this matter was raised in Committee, it marries together two separate ideas—one pressed so eloquently by a long-standing campaigner on these issues, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, and the other by me in a separate amendment. I say how delighted I am that we have the support of the Constitution Committee of this House in its HL paper 149 of January this year. Paragraph 15 states clearly:

Clause 1 provides that a person is entitled to be registered as a British overseas territories citizen if a number of conditions are met. This clause corrects the historical inability of mothers to transmit citizenship. It is unclear what fees will be charged for registration applications under this clause and similar provisions” in later clauses. It goes on:

“In a recent case the Court of Appeal held that a fee of £1,012 for certain registration applications by children was so high as to be unlawful.”

In paragraph 16, the Constitution Committee therefore requests:

“The Government should clarify its intentions on the amount of fees to be charged under clauses 1, 2, 3 and 7.”

Amendment 83 deals specifically with Clause 1. In the amendment, we state that no fee can be set above the cost to the Secretary of State of registration and that the cost must be set having regard to the vital importance of rights to citizenship by registration, securing the shared connection of all British persons; can be set only having regard to the specified principles; must not be charged to register the right to citizenship of

“any child who is looked after by a local authority”; and must not be charged to register the right to citizenship of any person under a statutory provision specifically intended to correct past legislative discrimination or injustice that had wrongly excluded that person from citizenship.

It is clear from the Explanatory Notes—I entirely endorse this—that the purpose of Clause 1 and the whole of Part 1 is to correct a historical wrong, saying:

“This clause creates a registration route for the adult children of British Overseas Territories citizen … mothers to acquire British Overseas Territories citizenship”.

The wrong is that:

“Before 1 January 1983 children could not acquire British nationality through their mother. While registration provisions have since been introduced to rectify this issue for the children of British citizens (section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981), this was not changed for children of”

British Overseas Territories citizens.

I am sure your Lordships would agree that charging £1,012 for a child and £1,126 for an adult to be registered as a British citizen is prohibitively expensive when the cost to the Home Office of registration, as estimated by the Secretary of State, is only £372. It could lead to many in this position not seeking registration because they cannot afford the fee. I ask my noble friend the Minister to tell us, in summing up the debate, where people—particularly children but also adults—will be expected to find the fee.

The remaining £640 in the case of a child, and more in the case of an adult, is money raised by the Home Office from the process that these British children and adults must go through to secure their citizenship rights. I do not know whether that is an unintended consequence of the way the fees are structured, but it does not seem fair to me.

In the case of PRCBC and others v SSHD, in February 2021, the Court of Appeal emphasised that for many

“children of a single parent on state benefits. it is difficult to see how the fee could be afforded at all.”

In its judgment handed down on 2 February 2022, the Supreme Court emphasised that these findings are not disputed. The court has similarly emphasised the importance of citizenship to a person’s identity and sense of belonging, and to their capacity to fully participate in social and political life. The Supreme Court Justice ruled that this a political decision, and I put it to the House this evening that it is now for us to rise and respond to the challenge and make sure that, as this is a matter of policy that is for political determination, we put it right this evening.

In conclusion, this is a very modest amendment. It seeks simply to remove the power to use the function of registering British people’s citizenship to raise money to pay for the immigration system and to restrict any fee that is charged to cover the estimated costs of registration. It does this by amending the powers in Section 68 of the Immigration Act 2014 to clearly distinguish rights to be registered as a British citizen from the many and diverse Home Office immigration functions to which those powers also apply. These people have lived their whole lives in this country and essentially have nowhere else to go. I do not believe that it is right that this fee should cause a barrier to them obtaining full citizenship, which, in my view, is their right.

As I said earlier, the amendment also precludes registration fees being charged in two specific cases. Local authorities should neither be charged nor discouraged from acting to secure the citizenship rights of British children whom they are looking after. Further, where a right of registration is provided to correct this historic injustice in British nationality legislation, the only fee should be to cover the process of that application.

With those remarks, I hope that this amendment will find the favour of the House and not just of those have who co-sponsored it, thereby correcting a historic injustice and ensuring that those who are entitled to this will actually be able to afford it. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for tabling these amendments. I welcome her to the noble band of terriers who have been snapping at the Home Office’s heels on the issue whenever the occasion arose.

In Committee, the Minister, who to be fair is new to the issue, tried some of the old, discredited arguments. Notably, he referred to the

“sustainability of the system and fairness to the UK taxpayer.”

When challenged, he acknowledged that the system to which he referred was the migration and borders system. Once again the Home Office is conflating citizenship with immigration. We still await a convincing reason as to why children who were born or who have grown up in this country should be subsidising the migration and borders system. Moreover, the distinction between this group and taxpayers is simply not valid, as the children’s parents are already taxpayers and the children will be in future and may already be paying indirect taxes.

The Minister also tried to reassure us that there are a number of exceptions to application fees which protect the most vulnerable, including young people who are in the care of a local authority and applying for limited or indefinite leave to remain. However, the exceptions apply only to leave to remain, and when challenged he accepted the distinction between citizenship and leave to remain, saying:

“There is no arguing about that at all.”—[Official Report, 27/1/22; col. 469.]

When challenged again later, he assured me that he would not try the argument again today. Now that both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, have accepted that that argument will not wash in this House, and the importance of citizenship has been a thread running through the debates on the Bill, I hope he will not attempt to use the argument again this evening.

In Committee, the Minister also promised to write in response to a number of questions on the best interests review, for which we have been waiting, like Godot, for a good year since the Court of Appeal ruled that the current fee is unlawful because of the failure to take account of the best interests of children under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act. I am grateful to him for the letter, although I found it a bit confusing. However, as the noble Baroness said, at least we now have the Supreme Court judgment, which did not dispute the best interests finding, and the Minister’s letter confirmed that the best interests Section 55 review will be published. My understanding is that it will be published by early May. Can he confirm that and say whether it will include a race and disability equality assessment? Can he also give an assurance that Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate the review report?

It is difficult to believe that a fee of over £1,000 is in the best interests of any child who has to pay it, given the evidence of the insecurity, alienation, exclusion and isolation it can cause, as noted by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court judgment found that, best interests aside, as the noble Baroness said, it is for political determination to limit the Home Secretary’s discretion in setting the fee level. The Bill gives us the opportunity to so determine politically.

Noble Lords have frequently cited the former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who described the fee as “huge”. Less well known is that, just shortly before becoming the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel also questioned the level of the fee, according to a Times report, and indeed the Minister accepted that it is “a lot of money”. We have an opportunity this evening—or rather, this morning—to end the long-standing injustice created by this huge fee that has served to exclude thousands of children from their right to register as citizens. I hope we will take it.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I am very pleased to speak at this time of day in favour of this amendment, which was so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I have spoken at earlier stages, so I do not need to detain the House for very long this evening. I have spoken not just on earlier stages of the Bill but over the years about the injustice of this extraordinary sum of money being charged in citizenship fees, especially in the case of children, as we have just heard. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I was struck by Sajid Javid’s own remark about the huge cost of placing such a large amount of money on the right to become a British citizen—over £1,000.

I gave a witness statement to the High Court about what the intentions of the 1981 legislation actually were. I served in another place then and I spoke in the debates in the House of Commons at that time. The Government of the day—a Conservative Government—rightly wanted to ensure that every person in this country saw themselves as a British citizen and gave them routes to achieve that status. I think that the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister of the day would be horrified at the idea that we would try to make money out of this process and thereby exclude people who ought to become British citizens from being able to do so. I particularly draw the attention of the House to proposed new subsection (2)(c)(i), as inserted by Amendment 83, which deals with the costs of exercising the function.

Whatever it costs the Home Office to administer, these fees will still be reclaimable. What will not be reclaimable is the excess which is being made in what some have described as a “nice little earner”. That cannot be appropriate—not in the case of citizenship. The largest group of people excluded by these fees are thousands of people born in the United Kingdom who have grown up and lived here all, or nearly all, of their lives. Some people in the group are living in the UK in their twenties and thirties, still excluded from the citizenship rights which have been theirs from at least the age of 10. The impact, in some instances, is passed on when their children are in turn born without citizenship and face the same exclusion by the same fees. Those people are entitled to citizenship by registration, but the fees have undoubtedly excluded them.

I like what the Government have said about the importance of citizenship. It has been alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. It is something which I have cared about a great deal, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, knows. I have shared with her some of the work I did for over 20 years holding a chair in citizenship at the University of Liverpool. I passionately believe that we must integrate people fully into our society. This includes everything from the teaching of language to the teaching of patriotism: the duty and belief that it is worth being a citizen of this country and upholding its values. All of us who were privileged to sit today in another place when President Zelensky addressed both Houses of Parliament really had it brought home to us how fortunate we are to live in a country like this with the rights, freedoms and liberties which we enjoy here. To adapt a phrase which was once used by an eminent citizen of the Roman Empire,

“we are citizens of no mean country”.

We are citizens of a great country, and others should be able, and entitled, to become so as well.

The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and Amnesty International UK have brought together an impressive coalition of support from the community and children’s and legal organisations for Amendment 83, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

The director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland said:

The Law Society of Scotland supports Amendment 83. It is important that registration fees do not present a barrier to people who want to be British citizens. We particularly support subsection (3) of the amendment which requires that no fee is to be charged for the registration of any child who is looked after by a local authority, or the registration of any person to correct a historical legislative unfairness.”

As we have heard, the Supreme Court has batted this one back to us and said that this is now a matter for Parliament to decide. This is our opportunity in this Bill. I will greatly regret if it is not passed this evening. However, I am certain that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, alongside her new-found ally, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, will recruit many more “terriers”—as she puts it—to the cause to ensure that we will continue chomping away at the ankles of the Minister until something is done to put this injustice right.

Photo of The Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham Bishop 12:45 pm, 8th March 2022

My Lords, in rising to support Amendment 83, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, to which I have added my name along with the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I declare my interests as set out in the register.

I set out my reasons for supporting this amendment in Committee. We should simply not have a situation whereby people, including children, are excluded from the citizenship to which they are eligible because they do not have funds. It is nonsensical for the Government to put up a barrier to people being, and feeling, fully part of our society. The Government rightly talk about the importance of integration, community cohesion and levelling up. This policy works against all three of those.

Being a British citizen is completely different from indefinite leave to remain, and this must be constantly recognised. If people are eligible to be citizens, cost should not be a barrier. The registering of British people’s citizenship should have no revenue function, and fees should be removed altogether for children in care and for those whose registration is provided to correct a historical injustice.

I simply urge the Minister to hear the strength of feeling in the House, accept this amendment and deal with it once and for all.

Photo of Lord Hacking Lord Hacking Labour

My Lords, I am wholly familiar with Governments siphoning off funds raised for one purpose and using those funds for a quite different purpose. I was particularly conscious of that during my years as president of the Civil Court Users Association, when the Government collected very large funds on the issue of writs and the like needed in the litigation process, and then used that money in a quite different sector of the court system.

I am also familiar with the disproportionate fees, compared to the administration costs, involved in the process of obtaining British citizenship. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has already given examples of that which I willingly adopt. I am aware too of this problem for a rather more personal reason, in that young members of my family, who have very little resource, have been in the process of obtaining British citizenship and have been heavily penalised—not by £1,000 but by £2,000 and more. They were young, and the family were able to provide the necessary support. But that is an example of the rampant unfairness.

My recollection—I cannot put my finger on it exactly—is that one of your Lordships’ committees recently investigated this problem and issued a report, in which it said specifically that the correct level of fees involved in the obtaining of British citizenship should be based on the administration cost and nothing else. However, the practice continues, and the provision contained in this amendment to Section 68 of the Immigration Act 2014 is very well drafted and sets out precisely what should be done. It reads as follows:

“in setting the amount of any fee in relation to registration of British citizenship the Secretary of State … must not set that amount at a level beyond the Secretary of State’s estimation of the administrative costs of the function to which the fee relates”.

There cannot be a fairer or more precise way of addressing the problem, and I congratulate the tablers of this amendment on the care and precision with which they have done it.

Since I have not tabled this amendment, it is not for me to make the decision about whether a Division should be called. That is a matter for those who have brought it forward. I look down at the leaders of my own party to see how they are going to participate in this issue—we have not heard from the noble Lord on my side what position my party is taking.

I would, however, discourage a Division at this time of night. Certainly, when I was last in the House, a number of years ago, if you put forward an amendment at Report and it had been defeated in a Division, you were not entitled to take it further—to Third Reading, for example. The fact is that those who will be voting in whatever Division is called are not in this House and have not listened to the arguments. It is a kind of routine form of voting, not the measured form of voting that happens after listening to the arguments.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, I am afraid I have to plead guilty as charged to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, since I was chair of the committee on citizenship and citizenship engagement that he was referring to, which had among its extremely able members the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and my noble friend Baroness Eaton.

We came across this issue, so I have some sympathy with the direction of travel of this amendment. In simple terms, while our committee was sitting the fees for naturalisation were raised to £1202, with an extra £80 if you wanted to have a citizenship ceremony. We were told that the cost of administering was roughly half that, so there was an override of about £600.

To be honest, to forgo the citizenship ceremony, which we were able to attend, would be to miss something. It was an extraordinarily moving experience to watch the people enter enthusiastically into their new life. In the margin of the meeting, they did, of course, tell us about the costs that they had to incur along the way. My major reason for supporting the direction of travel, though, is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. We are trying to promote people to come forward and anything that dissuades them is a mistake. I am not sure that we must have regard to what other countries are charging. That seems to me not necessarily something that will add to the sum of human knowledge; nor do I think there is necessarily not some room for a bit of a surcharge for the overall administration. But the underlying point is that the margin between the cost of providing the service and the cost being charged is too great.

In my view, this amendment—not in this form, but something like it—would impose some financial discipline at a lower operational level because it would impose some direct responsibility. Once it becomes a sort of global figure, nobody cares about it, is responsible for it or does anything to improve the service it is providing. That is why I think this is going in the right direction, even though I do not agree with all the detail.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

My Lords, I want to support Amendments 83 and 84 and really thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for putting them forward. I do not know whether she will be grateful but I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. Whether she wants me or not, I am one of the terriers she has managed to inspire in this instance. I have tried to pursue a bit of theme—I raised it at Second Reading and in Committee—that the Bill should have been used, apart from anything, to send a positive message about the benefits of being a citizen and those special rights and duties characteristic of any nation state. I feel the Government have missed a trick.

It seems to me that these modest amendments could punch above their weight by, on the one hand, removing entirely unnecessary barriers to citizenship but, on the other, making a positive case that we care about citizenship by doing so. It is a reminder that the barriers we are talking about here are not necessary. They are just financial ones. These are people whom the British state, according to its own British Nationality Act, says are entitled to citizenship, so that is not even in dispute. That is what is so irritating about this.

The fees are undoubtedly causing people problems and putting them off realising their citizenship rights. We have already heard the details. But the fact that you can be charged well over £1,000—despite the Home Office estimating that it takes only £372 to cover costs—just makes it feel like a rather grubby money-raising scheme. The amendment rightly tackles the fact that you should restrict any fee to just covering the real cost. I worry that it sends a message that citizenship is being cheapened morally by charging too much.

This goes beyond money because we need to consider what it means. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate both referred to what this means politically. It is completely counterproductive that citizenship is treated in this financial way because of the impact it has on social bonds and cohesion. Rather than citizenship which allows a sort of national solidarity of citizens—as we have inspiringly seen among the citizens of Ukraine—instead we are socialising new generations into a kind of shadow citizenship status that is fracturing and creates cynicism in the UK’s very commitment to the belonging, to equal rights and virtues and to the promise of what it means to be British.

To quote the High Court again, it said that, by excluding children from their citizenship rights, the fee makes them

“feel alienated, excluded, isolated, ‘second-best’, insecure and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK.”

The context here is the broader problem, which many across parties, in civil society and even prominent members of the Conservative Party know, that there is a real concern about powerful and regressive trends that are tugging hard at those threads of the cultural and social fabric of society, whether it is identity politics or a fashionable hostility to British values, or even to the idea of a “united” kingdom. Why would the Government add to that fragmentary trend by unnecessarily undermining the integration of all their citizens into the nation state?

Could the Minister take back to the Government that this is a miserly, penny-pinching policy that creates a negative relationship between the state and a section of the citizenry, and denies rights for no good reason? He should just get rid of it.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 1:00 am, 8th March 2022

My Lords, I rise extremely briefly to demonstrate the very great political breadth of the terrier pack of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I just tweeted a picture of the text of the amendment with the hashtag #FairFees. It is simply unconscionable that people having to register the right they hold as a British citizen is being treated as a cash cow. To charge any fee to a looked-after child—how incredibly counterproductive is that?

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for so ably introducing this amendment. I recognise the commitment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on these issues over many years.

Enabling eligible citizens to register their British citizenship is a positive thing, not just for the individual concerned but for society as a whole, for the reasons many noble Lords explained. Fees should not be set so prohibitively high as to prevent anyone who is eligible having their British citizenship officially registered.

We have raised before, and say again: why are immigration and nationality unique among government departments in being required to be self-funding when the services they provide are of benefit to everyone, not just the users of these services? We support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I join other noble Lords and various noble Baronesses from across the House in welcoming Amendment 83, as tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Lister. There is universal agreement that fees should not be a barrier to citizenship. I think the Government probably agree with that, so the only plea I make is that they act on it to make sure that fees do not act as a barrier. The Government have the power to do something about this. They can hear what people think about the importance of citizenship as a social glue in our society, and the reverence we all have for it, yet a barrier is placed because of the fee. The Government have it in their power to resolve it. Let us do it.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh for tabling Amendments 83 and 84, concerning the fees that may be charged in relation to registration of British citizenship. Please be in no doubt that we recognise the strength of feeling on this subject, which I know is of particular importance to my noble friend, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I say at the outset that the Government recognise that the acquisition of British citizenship is a significant life event and offers particular value to those able to obtain it, particularly children. All noble Lords agree with this point and have observed it.

Apart from allowing a child to apply for a British citizen passport, British citizenship gives them the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of their local community as they grow up. It also offers specific practical, legal and intangible benefits, including the right to vote on reaching adulthood, of course, and the particular sense of identity and belonging that results from knowing that the country that you have grown up in is your own.

Please let me also reassure the House that the Government are actively considering fees in this space. Following the Court of Appeal judgment in the case brought by the project for the registration of children as British citizens last year, the Secretary of State committed to reviewing the fee in line with her duties under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. While I recognise that the House has been very patient, waiting for the outcome of that review as though waiting for Godot, it is the Government’s view that it was important to allow the Supreme Court to give its view on the questions raised by a separate ground in this case, which considered fundamental questions around whether the powers that underpin the setting of fees had been lawfully applied, before concluding that work. Following the Supreme Court judgment of 2 February, the Secretary of State is currently considering her policy response to the review, and I hope to update the House by early May. I cannot give a specific date.

Furthermore I reiterate that, as regards the new routes introduced by the Bill to correct instances of historical legislative unfairness, it remains the Government’s intention not to charge in instances where there has been historical unfairness and/or discrimination. This is in line with our approach to other instances of historical unfairness, where waivers and exceptions were introduced in fee regulations, as is appropriate for provisions of this nature. The Government are currently exploring options in this regard for the routes introduced by the Bill. I hope that this reassures my noble friend to some extent.

However, it is important to consider the legislative history of the fee-setting regime, and the intent that has underpinned it. Since the establishment of the current nationality regime in the British Nationality Act 1981, registration of British citizenship for those who either have an entitlement under the provisions of that Act or who are applying on a discretionary basis under Section 3(1) has been contingent on payment of a fee. Current fee-setting for British citizenship is underpinned by the powers set out under Section 68(9) of the Immigration Act 2014 which, as the Supreme Court has affirmed in its recent judgment, were explicitly authorised by Parliament and empowered the Secretary of State to set fees at a level that reflected the costs of exercising the function, the benefits that accrue to an applicant as a result of acquiring that British citizenship, and the wider costs of the borders and migration system. Parliament also explicitly authorised the maximum amount that may be charged in relation to an application for British citizenship registration at £1,500, through the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016, which sets the framework for the current fees set out in secondary legislation.

The wider application of these principles and the powers to set immigration and nationality fees have underpinned the Government’s policy over the last decade of moving the borders and migration system to an increasingly self-funded basis, reducing the reliance on the UK taxpayer. Accordingly, fees across several routes, including nationality, have increased to support those broader funding objectives.

However, it is important to be clear on the role that these fees play in supporting the essential work of the border and migration system and particularly in funding the critical activity that supports and safeguards the interests of the people in the UK. These activities, which include ensuring that the UK’s borders are secure from threats and illegal activity, the effective operation of resettlement schemes to support those who are in greatest need and the management of a visa system that attracts the best and brightest to contribute to the UK’s prosperity, are essential to the delivery of the department’s wider mission and objectives.

Any reduction in income from fees must therefore be considered in terms of its impact on these activities, with the likely result being that activity in those areas will be reduced or income must be recovered through other means. This funding includes support for front-line operations that keep the country safe. A need to secure funding through other means may impact on fees for economic routes where the department’s objective is to attract visitors and skilled individuals to support the UK’s economy, which in turn benefits all those who live in the UK, or it will place an increased reliance on the taxpayer to fund these activities, which may in turn reduce the funding available for other important government work.

As such, there is a complex balance of considerations that the Secretary of State must take into account when setting fees, and, in line with the charging powers established by Parliament through the 2014 Act, these have informed the current fees structure. Fees charged are kept under review, as they are in other countries, and, as I have stated, there are ongoing considerations regarding fees charged for citizenship registration specifically, the outcome of which we will share in due course.

Additionally, I emphasise that elements of the amendment, such as the requirement to except fees for children in local authority care, although of course well intentioned, would more appropriately be set out in fees regulations and should not be introduced in primary legislation. In addition, it is not appropriate for a duty to have regard to the need to promote British citizenship in primary legislation that is setting fees. I therefore request that the noble Baroness withdraw her amendment for the reasons that I have outlined.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, I am humbled by the level of support expressed in the House this evening and outside the House from the Law Society of Scotland, the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and Amnesty International UK. I pay tribute to the long-standing work of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the support that I received this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. Very seldom do the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and I agree, but on this occasion I am delighted to have her support and that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, and others. I am particularly pleased to welcome the support of my noble friend Lord Hodgson, who speaks with great authority on these matters. As he described it, the Government are going in the right direction, but I argue that, this evening, I do not believe that they have gone far enough. Therefore, regrettably, I wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 83.

Ayes 25, Noes 69.

Division number 10 Nationality and Borders Bill - Report (3rd Day) — Amendment 83

Aye: 25 Members of the House of Lords

No: 69 Members of the House of Lords

Nos: A-Z by last name

Amendment 83 disagreed.

Amendments 84 and 84A not moved.