Clause 2 - Historical inability of unmarried fathers to transmit citizenship

Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 19th October 2021.

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Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I will continue my remarks from the point at which I left off. One of the general criteria is that the person has not previously been a British overseas territories citizen. The registration provisions are intended to cover those who missed out on becoming a citizen by virtue of the fact that their parents were not married; they will not benefit those who acquired BOTC status in some other way and subsequently renounced or were deprived of that status.

The provisions created by this clause are detailed, as we need to cater for changes over time to British nationality legislation. It may help if I summarise who is covered by each provision. Proposed new section 17C of the British Nationality Act 1981 will apply to those who would have been entitled to be registered as a BOTC under the 1981 Act if their mother had been married to their natural father at the time of their birth. It allows the Home Secretary to waive the need for parental consent where that would normally be required. A good character requirement must be met if there is one for the provision that the person could have applied under had their parents been married.

Proposed new section 17D of the 1981 Act will apply to those who would automatically have become a British dependent territories citizen or BOTC at birth under the 1981 Act had their mother been married to their natural father at the time of their birth. Both parents must consent to a child under 18 making an application for registration, but this requirement can be waived where one parent has died, or in special circumstances.

Proposed new section 17E is for those who were citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies immediately before the 1981 Act came into force, and who would automatically have become a British dependent territories citizen, and then a BOTC under the 1981 Act, had their mother been married to their natural father at the time of their birth.

Proposed new section 17F covers three groups. The first is those who were British subjects or citizens of the UK and colonies by virtue of birth in a former colony, and who would not have lost that status on that country’s independence if their parents had been married. The second group is those who were British subjects before 1 January 1949 and would have become citizens of the UK and colonies on that date if their parents had been married. This would affect, for example, a person born in Canada whose father was born in Bermuda, and who would have become a citizen of the UK and colonies by descent if their parents were married. The third group are those who did not acquire British subject status, or citizenship of the UK and colonies, but who would have done if their parents were married. For example, this would affect a person born in the USA to a father born in Montserrat.

Clause 2 also sets out when a person registered under these provisions will acquire BOTC by descent or otherwise than by descent. A person who holds that status by descent will not normally be able to pass it on to a child born outside the territories. Our intention here is to give the person the status they would have received had their parents been married. Home Office officials are working with territories to develop the process for these applications. As was the case with clause 1, we think that registration is the right route, rather than automatic acquisition, to allow people to make a conscious choice about acquiring British nationality.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

If a married couple has a child, the assumption is made that the man is the biological father, even though anyone who has seen “The Jeremy Kyle Show” will know that that is not always the case. If a couple is living together when a child is born, will DNA evidence be required in some or any cases, or will it be assumed that the man is the biological father?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question. I will take it away and write to him on that point.

As I mentioned in relation to clause 1, we will also create a route for people who become BOTCs to additionally become British citizens.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.