Amendment 83

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:45 pm on 8th March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee 12:45 pm, 8th March 2022

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.