New Clause 5 - Report

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

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Photo of Richard Spring Richard Spring Conservative, West Suffolk 11:00 am, 6th December 2001

I want to talk mainly about openness and transparency. We would all welcome news of the numbers of new British citizens as a result of the legislation. We have taken into account the Government's response in another place and have included information that we feel it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to collate and make available. As yet, we do not know how many British overseas territories citizens will benefit from the legislation and how many will exercise their new rights to live in the United Kingdom. It would be appropriate for the House to be made aware of such figures under the new clause, so that we might monitor the procedures' effectiveness. I recognise that every citizen will automatically become a British citizen, but the number acquiring a British passport as confirmation of status would be an adequate indicator.

An annual report on progress would serve the vital functions of monitoring the effectiveness of procedures and the legislation and of keeping this very important issue on the agenda.

The Minister was kind enough to inform the House on Second Reading that the cost of applying for a passport would be a uniform £46 across the territories. We had concerns about that, so we welcomed the information. However, we should be updated at regular intervals, as costs tend to increase over the years and we must ensure that the price remains reasonable.

I welcome the Government's undertaking in another place to provide as much information as possible, but we must ensure that we are provided specifically with statistics. They will assist the House to build up an accurate picture of the viability and popularity of emigration from overseas territories and the success of this move forward in our partnership with them.