Amendment 83

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 12:30 pm, 8th March 2022

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.