New Clause 2 - Abandoned infants

British Overseas Territories Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 6th December 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

'Citizenship conferred under the terms of this Act upon any abandoned infant shall apply to that one person alone.'.—[Mr. Spring.]

Photo of Richard Spring Richard Spring Conservative, West Suffolk

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I want to be clear that there are no loopholes by which those who are not otherwise claiming citizenship could do so. It must be spelt out that the abandonment of an infant, who then acquires British citizenship, would not lead to the granting of citizenship to his parents or guardian if they later reclaimed that child, unless the adults were entitled to it in their own right. I am grateful to the Minister for writing to me about the matter on 3 December.

We are pleased that there is provision for abandoned infants found in a British overseas territory, however we must be sure that there no loopholes that benefit the unscrupulous through the manipulation of infants, and we should note that in our proceedings.

The noble Lord Rooker in another place replied to a similar amendment tabled by my noble Friend Baroness Rawlings. He stated that there would be no grounds for such parents or guardians claiming citizenship under the measure, but I should be grateful if the Minister would make it crystal clear that the proposal is explicit about it.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I can reassure the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring). It is right that abandoned infants and foundlings who are discovered should have the right to British overseas territory citizenship and in this case British citizenship under the Bill. That right would not extend to relatives who subsequently popped up; indeed, if parents, guardians or relatives did so and it was then discovered that the child had no right to British citizenship because the parents were not British overseas territory citizens or British citizens, the British citizenship that had been conveyed on that child could be removed.

An impact of the new clause would be to deny the right of a foundling or child then to confer British overseas territory citizenship or British citizenship on their own offspring, which I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want. I therefore ask him to withdraw the proposal.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Labour, Gloucester

Will my hon. Friend clarify the position in the case of an orphaned child, or a child who had been abandoned but who had some records, such as a passport? I am aware that those circumstances would be rare.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

In the case of any child whose origin is uncertain, the question is whether they were abandoned in this country. The Bill brings the British overseas territories into the same system as we enjoy in this country, where the assumption is that the child has a right to be a British citizen; that remains the case. If a foundling is discovered with a passport, which I imagine would be rare, the assumption must be—I am taking advice from my officials— that they have another nationality, which would exclude them. They would keep their nationality.

Photo of Richard Spring Richard Spring Conservative, West Suffolk

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and do not wish to pursue the matter further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.