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 Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:00, 19 October 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh.

Opposition Members will not oppose amendment 59, and I will speak primarily to clause 3 stand part. The clause refers to the creation of the new statutory entitlement for British overseas territories citizens who have been affected by the injustices that we have heard about this morning in relation to clauses 1 and 2 to become citizens by registration. While all those with BOTC status additionally became British citizens in 2002, by virtue of section 3 of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, we know of the loopholes that have existed due to the fact that women could not pass on citizenship, or because their parents were not married, and as a result many were unable to become British citizens under the 2002 Act. I am pleased that the Government are committing to new routes for adult children of British Overseas Territories Citizen parents to be registered as BOTCs and, in turn, as British citizens.

Clauses 1 to 3 would benefit people born to BOTC mothers and BOTC unmarried fathers who could not pass on citizenship to their child due to nationality laws at the time of the child’s birth, which, as we have heard this morning, is deeply unfair and is rightly being addressed in this legislation. Clause 3 creates a route to becoming a British citizen for people who registered as a BOTC under the new routes introduced by clauses 1 and 2.

However, we must also discuss the implementation of clauses 1 to 3. Accessibility is all-important and while we welcome the changes made to British nationality law outlined earlier today, I have concerns about rights being inaccessible, which we have seen time and again in the UK, with devastating consequences. If we take perhaps the clearest and most heartbreaking example of the Windrush scandal—one of the most shocking and contemptible episodes in the UK Government’s history—I am sure colleagues across the Committee will agree that the Windrush generation were treated shamefully after a lifetime of working hard, paying their taxes, bringing up their families and contributing to our society. They were left facing uncertainty about their legal status in the UK and lost access to their homes, jobs and healthcare, through no fault of their own.

As last year’s “Windrush Lessons Learned Review” highlights, changes made to British nationality law in the 1980s

“progressively impinged on the rights and status of the Windrush generation and their children without many of them realising it.”

Therefore, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, the rights that are to be established for British overseas territories citizenship must be accessible. The Home Office must provide assurances as to when and how these rights will be made public and widely publicised for those affected. I make the point around accessibility now as we discuss clause 3, and I hope we can return to it later on, as I believe it is very important.

Overall, the Opposition none the less support clause 3 as it provides the framework to tidy up inconsistencies in British nationality law and acknowledges those who have suffered under UK law due to loopholes outlined in clauses 1 and 2.