Clause 25 - Proof of right of abode

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 25th October 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Briefly—[Interruption.] I am in obvious danger of sending the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality to sleep, judging from the groan that he just emitted from a sedentary position. Either that, or he is unwell and should leave the Committee.

I want to ask a couple of questions on the clause. There is no doubt that this area of legislation could do with a consolidating Bill. If we consider the list at the end of the Bill, it seems ridiculous. We can see all the legislation to which we must refer: the Immigration Acts in 1971 and 1988, the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, then by way of a change, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, and then this Bill. Interestingly enough, clause 25 is slightly arrogant, and I could not let it pass by—although I understand it is a matter of drafting form—that we hear that it will be subject to the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

The Minister’s optimism is obviously boundless. He obviously thinks that it will come in in 2005, so there is a drafting error here, to which we shall return on Report and Third Reading. I urge Ministers to think about doing some consolidation work, because all that legislation is a minefield to get through.

I want to make a couple of points. First, the proposed subsection (9)(e) mentions “a certificate of entitlement”. Can the Minister confirm what that would include? Does it cover work permits? I am interested in knowing what the ambit of “certificate of entitlement” is. I could send a letter saying that my friend is entitled to right of abode here, so I would like that point clarified. Secondly, proposed paragraphs (a) and (b) refer to

“a United Kingdom passport describing him as a British citizen,” and

“a United Kingdom passport describing him as a British subject with the right of abode in the United Kingdom”.

Surely it should just be a United Kingdom passport. Is not the description of “a British citizen” and

“a British subject with the right of abode” otiose? That understanding is probably the result of my ignorance, rather than the poor drafting of officials. I should like an explanation from the Minister.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

I was interested in the reference to the Identity Cards Act, which does not yet exist. Is one of the implications here that it would be anticipated that the identity card would be used as a travel document, in the way that is the case in the countries operating the Schengen agreement, which does not currently apply to the UK? Secondly, I noticed that proposed paragraphs (c) and (d) refer to information that will be on the identity card. That is an interesting point, since I do not recall anything in the Identity Cards Bill or in the debate on the Bill that specified what information would be on the card. We seem to be specifying in this Bill the information that will be on a card, which is covered by a completely separate Bill that still has to find its way through Parliament.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office 12:00 pm, 25th October 2005

I welcome you to the Committee again, Sir Nicholas. First, on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, schedule 1 to the other legislation describes only what may be on the identity card register. It includes and has always included immigration status as part of the data. That is clear in the schedule.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

There was clarity about what data were going to be on the register, but that is different from what data will be on the card.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office

The terminology in proposed new paragraphs (c) and (d) refers to the Act—what we hope will be an Act—and that of course talks about the interplay between the cards and the database. I think that my hon. Friend said in the debate on the Identity Cards Bill that it could more readily be called the identity register Bill. I assure him, whether he likes it or not, that the terminology relates to what is in the database under what we hope will be the Identity Cards Act.

This is simply a tidying-up clause. I know that some Opposition Members bristle any time that a Minister says, “Don’t worry; it is just a little tidying-up clause”, but it is and it is overdue. For example, the category of “citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” has not existed since 1983, when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force, yet the reference remains on the statute book. I have said before—I cannot remember to whom—that I agree with the notion that at some time in the near future, legislative time permitting, there should be consolidation to bring many of these Acts together. Every time that we bring in another Act—they do come along with alarming frequency—it   highlights lacunae or mistakes in previous Acts going back to 1971 and beyond. The point about the constant tidying-up, of which this clause is part, is well made and I support it. However, the clause is, as the title says, principally about the right of abode rather than anything else.

There is a clear distinction between a British citizen and a British subject, which I shall come to in a moment. A certificate of entitlement is simply about the entitlement to that abode and is invariably a little sticker, rather like a visa, in a non-UK passport. There will be historical reasons why people have the right of abode but choose not to have or are not eligible for a UK citizen’s passport in the full sense. Partly, this is a historical trail. We need a reference in the first instance to a UK passport describing the person as a British citizen. The next reference is to a British subject with the right of abode in the UK.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

May I put it to the Minister the other way round? Could there be a situation in which someone was the holder of a valid UK passport but did not have the right of abode in the UK?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office

Yes, in the terms that I have just laid out. It may be that someone has the right of access with a non-UK passport and needs the certification of entitlement. There are people with UK passports who, as I have suggested, are subjects rather than full citizens and will have the right of abode but not all the other rights afforded under citizenship. The clause is just about tidying these things up. The certification of entitlement covers another category. Yes, of course it is entirely appropriate to put in the elements about ID cards that will come, but if we are talking about arcane references, the principal point is that the clause replaces in its entirety section 3(9) of the Immigration Act 1971, which of course has been amended at various times since 1971 but talks in terms about something called patriality.

Mrs. Gillanrose—

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office

I shall happily give way to the hon. Lady if she can tell me what patriality is in all its glory.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Perhaps matriality but not patriality. I want to take the Minister back—

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

No, I shall not do that. I understand that someone could be a UK passport holder and not be entitled to a right of abode in this country, so where are the people with a valid UK passport who cannot have a right of abode in this country?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office

There may well the odd case like that, but I do not think that I was suggesting that. We need to maintain the distinction between those three principal categories: a UK citizen, a UK subject with a right of abode and those with a certificate of entitlement in a non-UK passport. There may well have been since 1971, although it is less and less the case, a whole series of people who fell into the category that the hon. Lady suggests through British overseas   citizenship and other terminologies that are becoming less and less important. The clause goes back to the original 1971 clause and all the subsequent amendments to bring it bang up to date. If I protest unduly that the clause only tidies up, the hon. Lady will view what is going on with deep suspicion.

Patriality, by the by, simply means a right of abode in the UK, but I had to look it up about three times. It has nothing to do with patriarchy, although some might suggest otherwise.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have been listening to the Minister with great interest. Obviously to get into this country, people have to come through a port of entry. May a holder of a UK passport as a resident of an overseas territory go through the EU channel or must he go through the other channel at points of entry? That is important to these people who feel great loyalty to this country.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office

It is an interesting point. However, I am sure that you, Sir Nicholas, and the Committee might lynch me, at least metaphorically, if we dwelt unduly on it. I do not know the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I will find out momentarily. Certainly, overseas territory citizens have no right of abode in this country. That is precisely what I meant when I said that some categories of people, who do not have a UK passport but a version of it such as an overseas territories passport, do not have a right of abode. I hope to find out shortly whether they go through the blue channel, rather than the green or red. However, that is not germane to the clause, which simply tidies up and makes clear what is required for proof of right of abode.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.