Clause 3 - Sections 1 and 2: related British citizenship

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

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 2:00, 19 October 2021

The amendment remedies a drafting issue. The clause as a whole creates a route to register as a British citizen for people who have registered as a British overseas territories citizen under the new routes introduced by clauses 1 and 2. The British Overseas Territories Act 2002 made BOTCs British citizens as well, so it is right that we allow those who missed out on British overseas territories citizenship to become British citizens as well. However, we also want to cover those who have already taken steps to become a British overseas territories citizen, such as through registration or naturalisation in a territory. The amendment introduces the wording of section 4K(3). As that section is currently worded, it means that only those who have been registered as a BOTC can register as British citizens using this clause. The amendment will mean that people who have naturalised as a BOTC will also qualify.

More broadly, on clause stand part, this is an important change aimed at giving British citizenship to those who become British overseas territories citizens under the provisions introduced by clauses 1 and 2. As we have heard, two groups missed out on becoming BOTCs because of anomalies in British nationality law: people born to BOTC mothers before 1983, and people born to unmarried fathers before 1 July 2006. Clauses 1 and 2 will correct this, giving them the opportunity to acquire the BOTC status that they should have had.

We also recognise, however, that changes to the law in 2002 mean that they should also have become British citizens. Under the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, on 21 May 2002 all British overseas territories citizens who had that citizenship by connection with a “qualifying territory” became British citizens. For children born in a qualifying territory after 21 May 2002, British citizenship is acquired automatically if either parent is a British citizen or settled in that territory. This means that this group have missed out on both BOTC and British citizenship, so we need to create a route for them to acquire both.

We recognise that some people who did not become BOTCs automatically may have already taken steps to acquire that status by applying for registration or naturalisation in a territory. Some may also have applied to become a British citizen under existing provisions, but for those who did not, this clause allows a person who would have become a British citizen, had women and unmarried fathers been able to pass on status at the time of their birth, to register as a British citizen if they are now a BOTC.

Home Office officials are working with territories to develop the process for these applications, including in respect of whether this can be a done as a “one-stop” approach, with a person being able to apply for BOTC and then also opt in to apply to be a British citizen at the same time.

We regularly receive representations on this issue, from individuals and governors, and so understand the strength of feeling. We are aware of families where cousins have different statuses because women and men could not pass on citizenship in the same way, or because a child’s parents did not marry. Those in this position understandably feel that they have been unfairly prevented from holding a status that they should have acquired by birth. It is therefore important that we make this change, and I commend clause 3 to the Committee.